All businesses should complete a California limited liability company search before forming a California LLC.
We'll show you how to check LLC name availability in our California LLC Search guide below.
Need help forming an LLC? Read our Best LLC Services review.
California LLC Name Search
1. Follow California Naming Guidelines
We recommend making sure your business name meets California Secretary of State business entity naming guidelines before completing your California business entity search.
Choosing a company name is the first and most important step in starting your LLC. Be sure to choose a name that complies with California naming requirements and is easily searchable by potential clients.
Be sure to follow these naming guidelines:
- Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company,” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your LLC.
- For a complete list of naming rules in California, you can read California's Code of Regulations.
Not sure what to name your business? Check out our LLC Name Generator.
2. Do a California Business Name Search
Before filing your name reservation request, you can use the California Entity Search to check the availability of your desired name. To perform the most effective search, select the appropriate “Search Type,” then type in the name you would like to use, excluding identifiers like “LLC.” This will return all entities using the same or similar names. If your business name is several words, you can even search just the first two words to ensure you pull up all possible similar names.
Be sure to conduct a thorough California business search through the California business programs division before completing your paperwork to avoid rejection. There are a lot of limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships in California.
3. Search Available Domain Names
Another important consideration to make when selecting a business name is whether or not your desired web domain name is available. Having a URL that clearly matches your business name is important. This seemingly small step can make a big difference in how prospective customers find your business.
The best way to determine if your desired URL is available is to search for it online using your preferred domain registry, such as GoDaddy.
4. Reserve Your California Business Entity Name
California’s Secretary of State Business Entities Division handles all LLC naming questions and requests. California allows business name reservations for 60 days. Reservations can be renewed but not for consecutive 60-day periods. There must be at least one day between each 60-day period. At this time, only applications by mail or in-person drop-off at the Secretary of State’s Sacramento office or Los Angeles regional office are accepted. It is not possible to email or reserve a business name online.
When reserving your name, you will have to pay a filing fee. Checks must be made payable to the "Secretary of State." An additional special handling fee is attached to in-person drop-off applications, which must be remitted by a separate check.
After choosing a name for your LLC, take the next step and create a unique logo with our Free Logo Generator.
California Name Reservation Form
File by Mail or In Person
Fee: $10 (by mail), $20 (in-person)
Secretary of State, Atten: Name Availability Unit
1500 11th Street, FL. 3
Sacramento, CA 95814
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While reserving the name for your California LLC is straightforward, there are some other things you should think about when choosing the best name for your business. You may want to do a Trademark and Social Media search for your name to see if it's available for use across the internet. This will help ensure you have full, unrestricted use of your business name. You'll also need a business bank account and registered agent.
Conducting a trademark search of your business name and associated slogans or logos before registering can help prevent costly litigation in the future. Discovering that another entity has trademarked your business name does not automatically disqualify you from using it.
However, it is important to know who is using the name, what industry they operate in, and where they are located to be sure you do not inadvertently infringe upon anyone’s intellectual property rights.
To complete this step:
Social Media Search
Just as important, or more so, than finding a domain name that fits your business is ensuring that your business name is available for use across social media platforms. You can do this by simply searching your business name on each major site, or use a tool such as Namecheckr to search across all platforms at once.
Business Bank Account
It’s best to wait to open a business bank account until after your LLC has been formed. The reason for this is that your LLC’s name must be registered with the state before you can open a business bank account. If you open a business bank account before registering your LLC’s name, there’s a chance that your business name will be rejected by the bank.
So, if you’re forming an LLC in California, make sure to register your LLC’s name with the state first.
If you're starting a limited liability company (LLC) in California, you'll need to appoint a registered agent. A registered agent is an individual or business that agrees to receive legal papers on behalf of your LLC. This gives the LLC a physical presence in the state and ensures that someone is available to accept service of process if the LLC is sued.
You can search for registered agents on the California Secretary of State website. To find a registered agent, enter the name of the business entity you're looking for in the "Search by Entity Name" field and select "Registered Agent" from the drop-down menu. The results will show the registered agent's name and address.
It's important to choose a registered agent that you trust and that will be reliable in accepting service of process on your behalf.
Having a name for your business is an important first step for creating a successful LLC, and one that is incredibly easy to do. Once you have found your preferred name using the California Entity Search, you'll want to secure your domain name so that your customers will be able to find your business online. Reserving your name with a Name Reservation Form will help you stand out from the competition. With your name secured, you will be ready to take the next steps to formalize your LLC.
California Business Entity Search FAQs
How do I look up an LLC in California?
To find an LLC in California, start by going to the Secretary of State's website and selecting "Businesses" from the top menu. Then, select "Business Search." On the Business Search page, you can search for an LLC by name or file number. You can also narrow your search by entity type and status by the advanced search function.
If you know the name of the LLC you're looking for, enter it in the "Name" field and select "Search.
How do I find my California LLC number?
If you need to find your California LLC number, there are a few ways to do so. The first place to look is on your formation documents. If you formed your LLC through the California Secretary of State’s office, they will have assigned you a number when they approved your Articles of Incorporation or Certificate of Formation.
If you can’t find your number on your formation documents, you can try searching for it online. The California Secretary of State's website has a searchable database of all businesses registered in the state. You can also try contacting the California Secretary of State directly and asking for your LLC’s number.
Finally, if you still can’t find your LLC number, you can always contact the Internal Revenue Service.
Can a California limited liability company have the same name as another business entity?
It is possible for two business entities to have the same name as each other if they are organized as different business structures. For example, there could be a corporation named ABC Company and an LLC named ABC Company.
How to search for a California LLC fictitious business name?
When you form a limited liability company (LLC) in California, you must choose a name for your business. This name is typically the legal name of your company and will be used on all official documents. However, you may also operate your LLC under a different name, known as a fictitious business name (FBN).
If you want to use an FBN for your LLC, you must first file a certificate with the county clerk's office in the county where your LLC is located. Once the certificate is filed, you can start using your FBN.
If you're not sure what name to use for your LLC, or if you want to see if another business is already using the name you have in mind, you can search for FBNs online. The Secretary of State's website has a searchable database of all businesses registered in California.
Can California Limited Partnerships have the same name as California LLCs?
Yes, a California Limited Partnership (LP) and a California Limited Liability Company (LLC) can have the same name. The California Secretary of State does not require LPs and LLCs to have different names.
However, we recommend that you choose a unique name for your business to avoid confusion with existing businesses.
The State of California code requires business names to be different enough not to confuse them with other business entity names. Check how different your LLC name is from other business entities by always doing a California business entity search first.