A California corporation name is the legal name of a business. This is the business name that is registered with the state and meets the secretary of state's required criteria.

California Corporation Name Requirements

California has a few requirements regarding corporation names, including:

  • The business name must not be similar to an existing corporation's name.
  • The business name must not mislead the public in any way.

Business owners can search the California secretary of state's website to see what names are available. It is a good idea to search for every word in your intended business name. Avoid using words that can be deceptive or imply that the business is something that it is not. Working with a lawyer can help you choose a corporation name that aligns with California's requirements.

Name Endings

Name endings are not always required in a California corporation name. However, if the business is a professional corporation, a name ending may be required. Corporation names should include one of the following:

  • Corporation.
  • Company.
  • LTC.
  • PC.
  • Professional Corporation.
  • Incorporation.
  • Incorporated.
  • Limited.
  • Co.
  • Inc.
  • LTD.

There may be additional requirements, depending on the nature of the business. Consult with a business lawyer to ensure that you are filing according to California's requirements.

Reserving a Name in California

It is possible to reserve a corporation name in the state of California. The problem with this, however, is that the name does not actually undergo a final decision until it is filed. It is possible to reserve a name that will not be approved later.

Once you have completed Form ARTS-GS, you will then submit it to the California secretary of state. Then, you will await approval or denial from the state.

Guidelines for Choosing a California Corporate Name

Keep these guidelines in mind when choosing a corporate name in the state of California:

  • California corporation names are only checked against other corporations. They are not checked against LLC's, LLP's, or general partnerships.
  • The secretary of state will not file a corporation name that could potentially mislead the public. Even corporation names with different end names could be considered to be misleading.
  • It is possible to have a corporate name similar to an out-of-state business name if the application is accompanied by a letter stating that it can be used by the original company.
  • The corporate name cannot imply that it is a government entity.
  • English alphabet and Arabic numbers are permitted in a corporation name. However, symbols are not. Additionally, uppercase, lowercase, and font are not translated to the business name.
  • Any corporate names that include words such as "bank" or "trust" must be accompanied with a Certificate of Approval from the Commissioner of Financial Institutions.
  • Any corporate names that include the words "credit union" must also be accompanied by a Certificate of Approval from the commissioner of financial institutions.
  • Businesses that provide insurance must include a Certificate of the California Insurance Commissioner approval.
  • Businesses that intend to use the word "cooperative" must follow the requirements listed in the California Corporations Code.
  • All close corporations must include the word "corporation," "incorporated," or "limited" in the business name.
  • All corporation names must comply with naming requirements set by their regulatory agency.
  • Business names may not use the corporation title unless they follow these state of California requirements.

Changing a Corporation Name in California

It is possible to change your corporation name in California after you have already filed one name. Changing a corporation name requires the following steps:

  • Hold a special meeting with the corporation's board of directors.
  • Create a Certificate of Amendment in the Articles of Incorporation.
  • File the original and two additional copies with the California secretary of state. The filing fee is $30. If a business wishes to expedite this process, it can pay an additional $350.

The approval process can take a few months. The state is currently taking about two months to process corporation names. It is important to have all the required documents to prevent any problems from lengthening the process. Always do a search ahead of time to see if your intended corporation name is available.

The state of California has many requirements for creating a corporation name. If you need help with a California corporation name, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.