Look up LLC in California is a good first step to take when forming a limited liability company (LLC) to be sure that the name you want is available to use for your business. Businesses can be searched for in order to find important information. 

Basic LLC Name Requirements for California

Names of LLCs in California follow many of the same rules as other states. The basic requirements are:

  • Inclusion of some form of “limited liability company” or any of its abbreviations.
  • Avoidance of prohibited words.
  • Distinguishability from all other active businesses in California.

Name Restrictions 

The state wants your LLC's name to be as easy to understand as possible to help potential clients or customers avoid confusion. You, therefore, cannot include the word "corporation" in the name because it may lead people to believe your business is a corporation, rather than an LLC. 

Similarly, the state doesn't want your company to be confused with a state or federal agency, so you'll also need to avoid words like "post office" and "police." 

LLCs cannot use words in their names that will lead customers to believe that they have permits or specialties that they do not have. For example, a hair salon should not be named Pamela's Dentistry. 

Name Distinguishability 

California does not allow two businesses to have the same name, so you'll need to perform a California business search to look up LLC names in the state. If you find that another business is already using your desired name, you can't simply add a different designator to make the name different. A few examples of designators are:

  • Corp. 
  • LLC
  • LP
  • LC 
  • Inc. 

If you want to name your LLC Paige's Bookstore, but a Paige's Bookstore, Inc. already exists, you can't open a Paige's Bookstore, LLC. However, you could get a little creative and try something like Paige's Literature Loft, LLC instead. 

Minor differences in the grammar of the name do not count for distinguishability, so if you wanted to name your LLC The Ice Cream Parlor, but their was already a business in California under the name An Ice Cream Parlor, the name would be considered unavailable for use. Differences in plurals and possessives or conjunctions (like and, or, but, or an ampersand) also do not create distinguishability. 

Other small changes to an LLC name will not work for distinguishability like punctuation differences or spelled out numbers. For instance, if you were hoping to name your business 2 Peas in a Pod, but the name Two Peas in a Pod was already being used, it wouldn't be available. 

Search Results

There are a few things to look for when you see the results of your California business name search:

  • Active status means that there is a business in the state currently using this name. 
  • Canceled status means that the name was canceled by either the LLC or state.
  • Suspended status means that the name is suspended because of missing annual fees.
  • Forfeited status means that the LLC abandoned this name.

Once you've performed the search, if your results display any of these statuses, you'll need to choose a different name for your business. 

Online Business Entity Search

If you visit the Secretary of State website for California, you'll find a simple, user-friendly search engine. Using this search, you can find:

  • Corporations
  • Limited liability companies (LLCs)
  • Limited partnerships (LPs)
  • Limited liability partnerships (LLPs)

You can type in the name of the business you are looking for or its entity number, if you know it. Once you find the business you are looking for, you'll see information like the registered agent's name and address, the entity number, and other information. 

On a different page, you will find the tools necessary to perform an official search for name availability when you're ready to name your business. You won't want to use the business search engine to check on the availability of a name in the state of California, because this search isn't made for that. You might think a name is available when it actually isn't because it doesn't show up in this search. 

To perform a search for name availability, you'll need to submit a form. Once this form is submitted, the search results previously mentioned will be displayed, and you can proceed with the process of naming your business. 

If you need help with looking up an LLC 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.