Looking for LLC names in California is a relatively easy process to go through. A company just needs to know the rules about searching and applying for an LLC.

LLC Name Availability in California

Any entity that wants to participate in business with the state of California, including limited liability companies, need to register with the California Secretary of State. There is a free database online that has all the details about LLCs registered in the state of California through the Business Entities Division. Companies can use the business search database on the California Secretary of State's website to see if another company has the same name or a similar one.

Only one company can have the same name, so you would have to try again if someone already has your choice. The name needs to be different so it doesn't mislead the public. Look at the rules for picking an LLC name in the state of California before searching for a new one. Businesses can refer to the California Corporations Code Section 17701.08 to see the exact rules for naming an LLC.

The new LLC name must end with "Limited Liability Co., Ltd. Liability Co. L.L.C., LLC, Limited Liability Company, or Ltd. Liability Co." The name cannot include the words "corp, trustee, inc., trust, bank, or incorporated." There also cannot be the words "insurer," "insurance company," or any words indicating the LLC assumes insurance risks.

When looking to see if a name is available, the following information needs to be put in: 

  • Firm name
  • Entity type
  • Requester's name
  • Requester's address
  • Fax and phone number
  • First, second, and third choices for an alternate name

The Name Availability Form can also be filled out and sent to the following address while awaiting confirmation: Secretary of State, Name Availability Unit, 1500 11th St., 3rd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Determine Name Distinguishability

The identifiers found at the end of business names, or the difference in designators, don't create distinguishability. Examples of this would be "L.L.C." or "LLC" for limited liability companies and "Corp." or "Inc." for corporations. Other designators exist, but those are the most commonly used.

Differences in singular, possessive, and plural forms of a word or differences in variables do not create distinguishability. If the name a company wants is "Apple Farm, LLC," it could not use that name if a search found "Apple's Farm, LLC" or "Apple Farms, LLC." However, it could use the name "Bob's Apple Orchard, LLC."

The words "an," "a," and "the" also don't create distinguishability in a name. If a company wants the name "Print Shop, LLC," it could not use that name if there was already "A Print Shop, LLC." However, it could use the name "Printing Solutions, LLC."

How to Look Up an LLC in California

There are several reasons a business may want to look up LLCs in the state of California. They might want to find more information about the status of those companies to see if they're still open. More information about an LLC may be needed in order for the correct service of process.

The California Business Search can show information about an LLC's status, entity formation, name and address of the agent, registration, and conversation date. This is not the tool to use when looking for the availability of an LLC, limited partnership, or corporation name.

To look for this, go to the Business Search page located on the Secretary of State's website and choose the option for Limited Partnership/Limited Liability Company Name. Put in the entity number (this is a 12-digit number) or the name of the entity in the search field.

 Don't put punctuation in your search when looking for this. Periods or any other punctuation should also not be used in the search term. For example, if the name X.Y.Z. Company is being searched for, type only "XYZ Company" in the search field.

If the entity has initials with periods in it, take out the periods but keep the spaces in. An example of this would be searching for the phrase "X Y Z Company" when looking for the business X.Y.Z. Company.

If you need help with LLC names 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.