California Business Entity Search

Searching the California LLC database is the first step in setting up a new business in the state. On the California secretary of state website, the built-in web portal makes it easy to search for business entities. This resource allows for the search of four main types of entities:

  • Corporation
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • Limited partnership (LP)
  • Limited liability partnership (LLP)

Use the portal to search by entity number or business name. However, the website does include a disclaimer that this tool is not designed to search for business name availability. Instead, users should use the separate process outlined by the secretary of state's office when searching for the availability of a specific business name. This process is different from the business entity search tool.

Search for Name Availability

In order to check if your desired business name is available, the first step is filling out a name availability inquiry letter. 

This form must include:

  • Name of the requester
  • Name of the firm (if applicable)
  • Type of business entity
  • Phone number, fax number, and address of requester
  • First, second, and third choices for business names

After you complete the form, you can send it by mail to the secretary of state's office and wait for confirmation of receipt.

Secretary of State
Name Availability Unit
1500 11th St., Third Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Search by Name

It's important to determine if the name you want for your LLC is available, which can be done by performing a search of all existing entities in the online database on the secretary of state website. Before you decide on a business name and begin your search, make sure to review the LLC naming rules under the California secretary of state. The rules are found under California Corporations Code Section 17701.08:

  • All LLC names must end with the words limited liability company or one of the accepted abbreviations (LLC, L.L.C., Limited Liability Co. Ltd. Liability Company, Ltd. Liability Co.).
  • An LLC name cannot include the words corporation, trust, incorporated, trustee, inc., corp., or bank.
  • An LLC name cannot include the words insurer or insurance company, or any other words that could suggest the company assumes any type of insurance risk or offers insurance policies.

In one example, John wants to form a company and call it John's Landscaping Services. If he plans to form an LLC, one acceptable name would be John's Landscaping Services LLC. He must use LLC or the full phrase, limited liability company, to meet the requirement for forming this type of business entity. In this example, John could not use names like John's Landscaping Services Incorporated LLC or John's Landscaping Services Inc.

Another requirement when creating an LLC name is distinguishability. A name that is distinguishable is not confusingly similar or identical to any existing organized business entity in California. When you search the database, look for names that could be similar to the name you want. As you perform your search, look at these examples to understand the meaning of distinguishability.

Adding different identifiers or designators at the end of your business name will not make it distinguishable. Some of the most common designators include L.L.C., LLC, inc., and corp. These designators are used most often, although there are a few others. 

For example, you want to name your LLC Johnson Investing LLC but a business already exists called Johnson Investing Incorporated. The name you want for your LLC would not be available because it is not distinguishable from the existing business. You would need to come up with a different and unique name. In this example, you might choose something like Johnson Financial Services LLC.

Grammatical changes to a business name also will not create distinguishability, such as plural versus singular forms of words. One example of this is a business owner who wants to name the company Orange Farm LLC. In the search, that owner found an existing business called Orange Farms LLC or Oranges Farm LLC. These names are too similar, so the business owner would have to come up with a unique name for the company. 

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