A California name reservation is necessary when taking steps to incorporate your business in California. The business name you choose must be unique and distinguishable from other business names that have been reserved or registered with California's secretary of state.

The business name must be one that is not likely to mislead the public or create an impression that the company was formed for purposes other than those specified in the formation documents.

If you intend to create a corporation, your business name must include Corp., Inc., Corporation, or Incorporated. If you are forming an LLC, your business name must include Limited Liability Company or LLC.

Perform a Business Entity Search

Before undertaking a California business name reservation, you should perform a business entity search to ensure that the name is unique and available for use in California before filing.

You can do this by running a business search check at the California secretary of state website. Even if your chosen LLC business name is unique, the SOC can reject your application for several reasons.

Naming Conventions

For instance, if you intend to use the name “Gold House Flippers” and an existing business entity is named “Acme Gold House Flippers”, the SOC will reject your filing. Let's take a look at some general guidelines to keep in mind when choosing your business name.

  • The business name can only be composed of numbers, letters, and Roman numerals.
  • The addition of punctuation marks cannot be used to distinguish company names. For instance, BCD Inc. is not distinguishable from B.C.D. Inc. Also, the plural form of a business name doesn't make one company name distinguishable from another. For example, Joe Corp is not distinguishable from Joes Corp.
  • Addition of a suffix to an existing word or using a derivative of the same word does not constitute a unique business name in California. Also, an abbreviation of one or more words in a duly registered name does not constitute a unique business name in California. For instance, California Auto Stores is not distinguishable from CA Auto Stores.

Get a Name Reservation Certificate

Once you've determined that your business name is available and unique, and that it obeys all naming conventions and guidelines in California, you should get a name reservation certificate to protect your LLC/Corporation name and avoid delays in the approval process.

Exclusive Rights to the Business Name

A California name reservation protects your business name by giving you exclusive rights to use the reserved business name during and after the incorporation of your company in the state of California.

Business owners who want to reserve a business name in California must fill the Name Reservation Request Form and file it either in person or via regular mail. If you are submitting the required forms in person, you must pay an additional special handling fee of $10 in check format.

Expiration of Reserved Name

If it is not used, a reserved name expires at the end of the calendar year when the application was filed. Although reserved names can be renewed, they cannot be renewed for consecutive periods. To extend the duration of the reserved name, you must file a renewal between October 1 and December 31.

After reserving your business name, you should file your business formation documents (i.e., articles of organization for new LLCs or articles of incorporation for new corporations) with the secretary of state before the expiration of the time period for your name reservation.

If you are unable to do so before the reservation period elapses, you should reserve it again else another individual may appropriate the name.

The Name Reservation Request Form

You are required to fill in the following information in the Name Reservation Request Form:

  • Your name.
  • Corporate name (if applicable).
  • Address.
  • Phone number.
  • Fax number.
  • Type of entity.
  • Desired name (1st choice).
  • Desired name (2nd choice).
  • Desired name (3rd choice).
  • Forfeited/suspended entity name & number (if applicable).
  • Mail back response (if submitted in person).

After filling the form, submit it in person or via mail to:

Office of the Secretary of State

Name Availability Unit

1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814

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