California LLC Name Search

Last updated on: June 30, 2021

One of the most important tasks at the stage of planning to start a California LLC is choosing a name for your future company. For many aspiring businessmen, it becomes a real headache.

It’s a well-known fact that a successful company name helps a business get off to a good start, attracting new customers quickly, and increasing its standing in the eyes of investors. This is the key element to building your company and the foundation of the brand. 

The name must be stylish, memorable, and necessarily unique since using someone else’s (or very similar) name, even if it looks perfect, is strictly prohibited by law.

But how do you know if the name you have come up with is not already taken by someone else? Fortunately, you don’t have to manually check all the companies registered in California. There’s an easier way – read the following Business Search Tips and follow the guidelines! This method will make performing an LLC name search and checking the results easier. 

It only takes a few minutes to do a California LLC name search but it can save you a few days in the future, in the case when the Secretary of State rejects your articles of incorporation for similarity or identity reasons.

Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search

As you might know, the process of establishing a company requires thorough preparation. To avoid complications, you need to think everything over really well and consider different nuances before submitting the constituent documents. This includes conducting a free California name search and using the mentioned free California Secretary of State Business Name Search service. 

Of course, the main and most common reason to use an LLC name search in California is to check for name availability. However, the benefits do not end there:

Finding Similar Names

Often the names of companies, operating in the same field, are similar. You don’t want potential customers to confuse you with a competitor, do you? 

Knowing ahead of time that there are several similar LLCs, you can come up with a completely unique name for your company, making it your advantage.

Checking Your Business Status

The company status allows you to find out the unique legal entity number given to you and make sure the LLC has a positive reputation with the state.

Hiring a Registered Agent

Hiring a registered agent will help you keep track of all the events related to your business and stay up-to-date in terms of deadlines. If you wish, you can use the name search to enter a contract with a California agent for Service of Process. Hiring one of the companies like IncFile will provide professional business support for your business.

Using the California Business Search is the fastest option. But don’t rush to write down the name of the company you want based on search results only. The question of the final name availability check should be approached comprehensively. Remember that some information, e.g. a list of reserved but not yet registered names, is not officially published. And it cannot be found with a regular CA LLC search. That’s why you should send a request to the Secretary of State to be 100% sure of the successful registration of your company’s name.

How to Perform a California LLC Name Search

The Secretary of State’s website offers a simple and easy to use Business Search page. This is where you can perform a California name search in the way that suits you best:

  • “by keyword” – covers as many options as possible;
  • “exact search” – only takes into account the words you enter;
  • “starts with…” – specify at least part of the name to get a list of all relevant companies.

The service also provides detailed information about each registered LLC including the following data:

  • number;
  • name;
  • date of registration;
  • address;
  • status;
  • registered agent’s data, etc.

Some of this information will come in handy for finding or contacting a particular company. Others, on the contrary, can be misleading.

For example, an “abolished,” “inactive,” or “suspended” status of an LLC does not mean that its name is now available for use. Even if a company is not currently doing any business, its name is still its exclusive property.

When conducting a CA Business Name search, remember that it’s not an official criterion for determining availability but only a means of providing information. 

A complete and up-to-date database of California business names is maintained by the Secretary of State. To comprehensively check the availability of a name, you will need to write a Name Availability Inquiry Letter by sending it to:

The Secretary of State
Name Availability Unit
1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

What If My Name Is Unavailable?

Alas, situations when a California Business Search doesn’t give positive results or when the Secretary of State tells you that your name is already in use are pretty common. So what should you do in this case?

First things first, don’t get discouraged. After all, even if the name choosing process was not easy, at least you know about the problem in advance, and your registration is not rejected.

If it’s a domestic LLC, you have nothing else to do but to come up with a new name for your company. In the case of a foreign business, you have two additional options to choose from:

Registering an “alternative name” that will only be used within California;

Using a similar name. However, you must get written consent from the original organization before filing to register it.

How to Make a California LLC Name Distinguishable

Compliance with the law is the cornerstone of any company. With respect to LLC names, California states that all of them, whether actual or alternative, must meet the following criteria:

  • No words that will lead to confusion of the company with a government agency, e.g. “treasury,” “department of state,” etc. are allowed ;
  • The presence of an “identifier” – the name must include “LLC,” “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” “LC,” or similar abbreviations;
  • The name must be consistent with the nature and purpose of the activities set forth in the constituent documents;
  • Unless the LLC is involved in banking or any other corresponding activity, words such as “Bank”, “Attorney,” “Banker,” “Banking,” “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Limited Partnership,” etc. are prohibited. Otherwise, additional legal documents and the presence of a licensed person will be required;
  • Uniqueness. The name must be “distinguishable in the records.”

The latter point most often causes difficulties. How do you make your CA business name unique? What exactly does the law mean by that?

California Code of Regulations states that an LLC name is considered distinguishable if, quote: “a proposed LLC name must be distinguishable in the records of the Secretary of State from that of an existing LLC name.” In a practical matter, this interpretation means that the difference must be substantial.

Minor differences, such as the absence/presence of dots and commas, word transposition, upper case letters, lower case letters, or the use of superscript/subscript letters and numerals are not allowed.

Given all of the above requirements, choosing a suitable name is not an easy task at all. The most effective way to solve it is to prepare several names in advance. Then check with California LLC Name Search business to make sure they are available. By doing a CA LLC name search, you will greatly increase your chances of avoiding rejection at the registration stage. However, there are more search methods to consider.

What’s Next?

Whether you are in the process of creating your own business or just plan to start one, CA Business Search can become a useful tool to get information about the company name and its status. What you will do next is completely up to you.

If your business goal was to confirm the availability of the chosen name, and it turned out to be free, you can submit the incorporation documents for registration. If successful, when the company is officially established, all the name rights will go to the newly created LLC. No one else will be able to use it anymore.

But what if you’re not ready to start a business now? 

In this case, California suggests that entrepreneurs reserve the name they want for their company in advance. By writing an application and paying a $10 fee, you get 60 days, during which the state will reserve the name of your choice for you.

If you don’t have time to prepare for registration during that period, you can extend the reservation for another 60 days. However, keep in mind that there must be a break of at least 1 day between such periods.

Need Help Starting an LLC?

Startups have a lot of work to do – dozens of different issues require your attention on a daily basis. You have to manage internal paperwork, receive and process various requests from the state, grow your business, monitor and analyze the market, and stay focused on your deadlines. This can quickly become a problem. Of course, you can entrust some of this work to a lawyer. However, for a startup, professional services are often too expensive.

The good news is that you do not have to do everything yourself. 

Today’s online market provides a huge selection of online platforms that specialize in business support. The most popular among them are Northwest Registered Agent or ZenBusiness, which provide great sets of business services at affordable and reasonable prices. They have many positive reviews and are repeatedly tested by thousands of customers.

Hiring such a company guarantees impeccable paperwork and a worry-free experience. You will save your time, effort, and money, allowing yourself to focus entirely on other aspects of your business.

Senior Business Tax Writer, etc
Jean Wilson Murray
(323) 789-5289
Senior Business Tax Writer, etc
Jean Wilson Murray

In this IncFile vs ZenBusiness review, we're going to compare two of the most popular LLC formation services based on pricing, features, and drawing out differences and similarities to let you see which is most suitable for you and your business.

You can learn more about @Mike here.

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