California Secretary of State Entity Search

All businesses should complete a California Business Name Search before forming an LLC.

We'll show you how to check LLC name availability in our California Secretary of State Entity Search guide below.

Need help forming an LLC? Read our Best LLC Services review.

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  1. Follow California Naming Guidelines
  2. Do a California Business Name Search
  3. Search Available Domain Names
  4. Reserve Your California Business Entity Name

California Entity Search

1. Follow California Naming Guidelines

We recommend making sure your business name meets guidelines before completing your business name 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 search before completing your paperwork to avoid rejection.

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 using your preferred domain registry, such as GoDaddy.

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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

Download Form

Fee: $10 (by mail), $20 (in-person)

Submit to:
Secretary of State, Atten: Name Availability Unit
1500 11th Street, FL. 3
Sacramento, CA 95814

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Other Considerations

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.

Trademark Search

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:

  • Search California’s trademark records to see if your business name or associated slogans, logos, or others are in use by another business in your state.
  • Search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s electronic records to find any federally registered trademarks associated with your business name.

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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What's Next?

Now that you have your name, it's time to take the next steps to establish your LLC. Check out our full guide on how to form an LLC in California, where we can guide you every step of the way.

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