1. LLC Name Availability in California
2. Reserve a Name for California LLC

When looking for LLC name availability in California as a business, it's important to take the correct steps to save time and money.

LLC Name Availability in California

When a company starts, they should check if the business name is available in that state. If the name is being used by another company or has a similar name, the state prohibits the business from registering to use the name. Each state has a different process regarding checking name availability.

Many states have a database that can be searched online to see if a name is already in use. In the state of California, companies are required to mail in their request to check on a name. This is done with a Name Availability Inquiry Letter. The California Secretary of State has a business search database that can be used to see if there is a similar or identical name that a company has in mind for its limited liability company based in California.

The LLC name must be different from other LLC names that already exist so the public isn't misled. The law states that the LLC may not be identical or "confusingly similar" to that of another corporation, limited partnership, or LLC in the state of California. All new businesses should review the name rules that the California Secretary of State has set. They can refer to the California Corporations Code Section 17701.08 for the specific guidelines.

The LLC name may not have the following words: 

  • Corporation 
  • Incorporated 
  • Inc. 
  • Trust 
  • Trustee
  • Bank 
  • Corp.

They also cannot have the words "insurer" or "insurance company," as this suggests that the LLC assumes insurance risks or issues insurance policies. When deciding on an LLC name, pick three options to go with. The second and third names are not mandatory, but this will speed up the process if your first choice is already taken by another LLC in California.

Reserve a Name for California LLC

When confirmation has been received by the state that the desired business name is available for use, it's recommended to reserve that name. This establishes the company's intent to use that name and prevent others from using it until the LLC is fully set up. Once the name reservation is approved, the business will have 60 days to use that name for an LLC in California.

Before a name reservation is filed, the name rules for the California Secretary of State must be reviewed to ensure the proper rules are followed. The business search database can then be used to confirm that name is available to be reserved. The secretary of state's Name Reservation Request Form can then be used to file the name reservation. 

The name reservation will be rejected if the name isn't distinguishable from a current LLC name or may mislead the public. The articles of organization can also be rejected if the name isn't applicable.

Filing the documents (the articles of organization for an LLC or an articles of incorporation for a corporation) will register the business name. If the organization won't be formed anytime soon or it's unknown how long the business will take to file documents to start the business, the name should be reserved so no one else takes it. While reserving a business name is not permanent, registering a business name is.

The business name doesn't need to be registered if documents are being filed to form the business name in the state. If the business will be run by a sole proprietor, he or she should register the name with the state. Sole proprietors, and sometimes partnerships, don't need to formally register their business with the state. However, it prevents another company from using that name in the state.

A company can reserve a business name, but this doesn't guarantee that the name fills the requirements for the state. The name could be rejected during the official filing process if it doesn't meet the state's requirements. If the reservation period expires and the business still isn't ready to form an entity, the name can be reserved again. The business will have to wait to apply until the reservation expires.

If you need help with LLC name availability in California, 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.