A California LLC name availability search is one of the first steps for forming this type of business in the state. You can perform this type of search through the Secretary of State's website. After confirming that no exact or similar businesses are already registered in California, you can broaden your search, depending on your business needs and scope, to the national or international scale to confirm that you won't infringe on any protected content when you create your LLC.

How Do I Search for a Business Name and Reserve a Business Name in a State?

Do you have a name in mind for your LLC? You can check for similar and exact results online. In California, you can perform a search for free through the Secretary of State.

You can also submit a Name Availability Inquiry Letter by mail to check whether the LLC name that you want to use is available. You just need to download the form from the Secretary of State's website and send to the address at the top of the document.

What You're Looking for in an LLC Name Search

A business name search is one of the first steps on your journey to creating a California LLC; keep in mind that you aren't just searching for identical names in the database. If another LLC has a similar name and is in a similar industry, you're prohibited from using it for your new business.

Reserve or Register a Name for Your LLC

Once you confirm that the name you want is available to use, you're free to move forward with creating your LLC. If you're not ready to register officially, however, you can reserve a name for up to 60 days. This gives you plenty of time to do things such as register a domain name or create a business email address while knowing that no one else can register a name that would infringe on your protected content.

Other LLC Name Considerations

In addition to the steps and considerations mentioned above, there are a few other tips to remember as you move forward with creating your company:

  • Entrepreneurs who are ready to move forward and create their LLC can register without having to reserve the name first.
  • To register your LLC, simply file the Articles of Organization, known as articles of an incorporation for a corporation, with the California Secretary of State.
  • You should reserve your business name if you plan on registering within the next two months or need to take care of other paperwork first before submitting your Articles of Organization to the state.
  • On the California Secretary of State website, you'll find information about either reserving or registering an LLC name. Check all naming requirements and budget for the filing fee when you're ready to create your new business.
  • Check for name infringement before you make a reservation. A reservation won't be rejected if it doesn't meet the California name requirements, but you may run into problems when you try to register your business name. Research carefully and consider working with an LLC attorney to avoid this issue.
  • Expand your search beyond the California Secretary of State. Other businesses that are licensed to work in California may be registered at the national or global level. This may not be a problem for local small business owners, but if you plan on selling goods or services across state lines, your content may infringe on protected material.
  • Perform a trademark search through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to be as thorough as possible when naming your California LLC.

Name Rules for a California LLC

Your California LLC name must be unique and distinguishable, and it must also comply with the state's naming rules. These regulations are listed under California Corporations Code Section 17701.08. Your California LLC name must:

  • End with a designator such as “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” or “Limited Liability Co.”
  • Not use trust, bank, incorporated, or other prohibited words. Only businesses that meet certain requirements in the state, such as having licensed professionals on staff or structuring as a corporation instead of an LLC, can use these words.
  • Not use any words related to insurers or the insurance industry.

If you need help with California LLC name availability, 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.