California Name Search

Last updated on

Deal alert! Our favorite company, Northwest, is forming LLCs for $39 (60% off!) See details.

California LLC Name Search

Quick Start Guide
This Quick Start Guide is a brief overview of how to form an LLC in California.

Detailed Lessons:

 

California LLC Costs:
California state fee: $70
Statement of information: $20 (every two years)
Annual franchise tax: $800 (every year)

Need help?
Hire a reliable service to form your California LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)


Video Transcript:

The following information is provided for educational purposes only and in no way constitutes legal, tax or financial advice. For legal, tax or financial advice specific to your business needs, we encourage you to consult with a licensed attorney and/or CPA in your State. The following information is copyright protected. No part may be redistributed, copied, modified or adapted without prior written consent of the author. In this video we’re going to teach you how to research and choose your desired LLC name. The purpose of this video is to help you avoid infringing upon someone else’s name rights, to help you differentiate your business name from existing entities, and to make sure your desired LLC name is available for use. In order to make sure your desired LLC name is available for use, you will need to search it against the existing organized entities on the State’s online database. We will first walk you through some requirements and restrictions, and then later we will show you how to perform your search. Name Requirements. Your LLC name must end with the words “Limited Liability Company”, or the abbreviations “L.L.C.” or “LLC”. Using the abbreviation LLC is the most common. For example, Joe wants to start a company by the name “Joe’s Landscaping Services”. Since he is forming an LLC, he must file under the name “Joe’s Landscaping Services, LLC”. Again, using the abbreviation “LLC” or the full word “Limited Liability Company” is a requirement when forming an LLC. Name Restrictions. Your LLC name cannot imply that it is a corporation. You are not allowed to use the words “Corporation” or “Incorporated”, or the abbreviations “Corp.” or “Inc.” anywhere in your LLC name. Let’s look at our example again. Since Joe wants to form an LLC, he cannot call his company “Joe’s Landscaping Services Inc., LLC” or “Joe’s Landscaping Services Incorporated, LLC”. Your desired LLC name must also be “distinguishable”. This means it cannot be too similar to the names of existing organized entities that are found in the results during the search of the database. We will now illustrate several examples of distinguishability, and we will provide examples you may see while performing your search. Differences in designators, which are the identifiers at the end of a business name, do not create distinguishability. Examples of designators would be “Inc.” or “Corp.” (for Corporations) and “LLC” or “L.L.C.” (for Limited Liability Companies). There are other designators as well, but these are the most commonly used. For example, your desired LLC name is “Smith Investments, LLC” but during the search at the database, let’s say you found a business under the name “Smith Investments Inc.”. In this example, your desired LLC name would not be available for use. You would have to think of an alternative name that is unique and different. An example would be “Smith Financial Group, LLC”. Grammatical differences. The following do not create distinguishability: differences in variables and singular, plural and possessive forms of a word. For example, your desired LLC name is “Apple Farm, LLC”. Let’s just say during the search you found the business under the name “Apple Farms, LLC”, or let’s say you also found a business under “Apple’s Farm, LLC” with an apostrophe s. Both of these names, although slightly different, are too similar, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An example of an alternative name would be “Bob’s Apple Orchard, LLC.” The following do not create distinguishability: differences in articles such as “A”, “An”, or “The”. For example, your desired LLC name is “Print Shop, LLC”. Let’s just say that during the search at the database you found a business called “The Print Shop, LLC”, or you found a business called “A Print Shop, LLC”. Again, although they seem different, these names are all the same in the eyes of the State, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An alternative name would be “Printing Solutions, LLC”. The following also do not create distinguishability: the use of conjunctions such as “and”, “or”, and the ampersand symbol. Let’s say your desired LLC name is “Night & Day, LLC” with the ampersand symbol, but during your search you find a “Night and Day, LLC”, or you found a Night Day, LLC”. Again both of these examples are too similar, and your desired LLC name is not distinguishable and therefore not available for use. An example of an alternative name would be “Moon and Sunshine, LLC”. The following also do not create distinguishability: the use of certain punctuation such as hyphens, slashes, periods, commas, etcetera. Let’s say your desired LLC name is “Peter, Paul & Mary Studios, LLC” but during your search you found “Peter-Paul-Mary Studios, Incorporated”, or you found a “Peter, Paul, and Mary Studios Incorporated”. Again, both of these examples are too similar, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An alternative example would be “PPM Productions, LLC”. Alphanumeric. Differences in numerical or written numbers does not create distinguishability. For example, let’s say your desired LLC name is “Three Teachers Consulting, LLC” with the number 3 spelled out, but during your search of the database, you found a company called “3 Teachers Consulting, LLC” with the number 3. Again, these are deceptively similar; the State does not look at these as any different, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An alternative example would be “A Few Good Teachers Consulting, LLC”. Deceptively Similar”. Names that are too similar to existing organized entities also do not create distinguishability. For example, your desired LLC name is “Speedy Delivery Services, LLC”, but during your search let’s say you find a “Speed Delivery Services, LLC”, or you find a “Super Speedy Delivery Services, LLC”. Again these names are too similar, therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An example of an alternative name would be “At Your Door Quick, LLC”. Takeaways. As you can see, just filing your paperwork with your desired LLC name is not as straightforward as you may have originally thought. The most important takeaways from showing you all these examples are as follows: it’s important to make sure your name is truly unique and not too similar to the names of existing organized entities. If your desired LLC name is unavailable for use, either by its exact match already being used, or by it being too similar to an existing name, we recommend using some creativity and coming up with a variation of your original LLC name, so that the name is now unique, and is “distinguishable” and stands apart from other businesses. Some additional tips to think of when creating your LLC name are: make your LLC name easy to spell. You want to make sure people can find you when they’re looking for you. Make your LLC name short. Shorter names are easier for people to remember. Make your LLC name have a positive connotation. Leave people with a good feeling when they hear about your business. You are now ready to search your desired LLC name against the State’s online database. We showed you a number of examples where the desired LLC names were not available for use, but don’t worry. In the next part of this video, we will provide plenty of examples of names that are available for use, so that you can best understand the database and the results that you see. Let’s head over to the state’s online database. The link below this video will take you there. Here we are at the state’s online database. Before we begin, there’s a few important things to discuss. The California Database is not as refined as some other state databases. That means you will need to do a few searches to make sure your name is available for use and that it is not too similar to existing businesses within the state. The database also splits its search by Corporations and LLCS, so you’ll need to be sure to search both when you check for your name. Don’t worry, we will show you how to do this in just a few minutes. Companies in the California Database have different statuses that you’ll see when searching your desired LLC name. Results for an existing company’s name could show: Active, Cancelled, Forfeited, or Suspended. You may see other statuses, but these are the most common. Next, we’ll give you a quick summary of what each status means. If you find a business name that has an Active status, you will not be able to use his name for your LLC. Cancelled names. These names have been cancelled by the state or by the LLC. Suspended. These names have been suspended by the state due to late or non-payment of annual tax requirements. And Forfeited. These names have been abandoned by the LLC. Although it sounds like Cancelled, Suspended and Forfeited names would be available for use, they are not. If your LLC name search shows one of these statuses, we recommend coming up with a different name or a unique variation of your desired LLC name. Let’s look at a few examples of available names. Let’s pretend that your desired LLC name was “Chocolate Cupcake Factory, LLC”. Let’s head over to the database and let’s just do a search for the words “chocolate cupcake”. What I’m first going to do is make sure that “Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership” is checked off, and I’m going to enter “chocolate cupcake” in the search box. I’m now going to click “Search”, and on the next page you’ll see it says “Records Not Found”, so we’re about halfway complete. I’m going to go down and click on “Modify Search”, and we’ll need to do that search again and we’ll need to search corporation names. I’m going to click “Search”, and again “Records Not Found”. Because there were no existing records, my desired LLC name would be available for use. “Let’s look at another example. Let’s pretend the desired LLC name was “Think Big Properties, LLC”. Let’s head over to the database, and let’s just do a search for the words “think big”. I’m going to click “New Search” at the bottom, going to check off “Limited Liability Company” and I’m going to type “think big” and then click “Search”. So we can see we have a couple of results here. Let’s take a read-through here: “Think Big Academy”, “Think Big Brand Management Education,” “Thing Big Films”, “Think Big Financial LLC.” So nothing here is identical, or relatively similar to our name. That’s good, but let’s go ahead and hit “Modify Search” and let’s go and check under corporation names, and let’s take a look through here. And again, our desired LLC name is “Think Big Properties”, so “Dream Enterprises”, “Enterprise Films”, going to go down here and click “2” to go to the second page of the results. Perfect! Our name is not taken and there’s nothing that’s too similar. Because the name is unique from other existing entities, our desired LLC name is available for use. Let’s look at some examples of names that are not available for use. Let’s pretend your desired LLC name was “Brooks Auto Center, LLC”. Let’s head over to the database, and let’s search “Brooks Auto”. I’m going to go down here, hit “New Search”, click “Limited Liability Company”, enter “Brooks Auto”, and then hit “Search”. No records are found. Alright, let’s hit “Modify Search”, let’s go over to “Corporation” and let’s click “Search”. We have a couple results here, and you can see at the top we have one here with its status of “Active” and the name is “Brooks Auto Center, Inc.”. So this is an active corporation with an identical name. Because we found “Brooks Auto Center Inc.” is an existing corporation, our desired LLC name would not be available for use. Let’s look at another example. Let’s say our desired LLC name was “D.B. Shoe company, LLC”. Let’s head over to the database and let’s do a search for “DB shoe” without the periods. You don’t want any punctuation during your database searches. So I’m first going to search corporation name doesn’t matter if you search corporation name first or the LLC name first. Let’s enter “DB shoe” and click “Search”. Okay, no records found for corporations. Let’s go back and hit “Modify”. Let’s do a search for limited liability company. Let’s click “Search”, and we have one result here. Looks like we have an active company by the name “DB Shoe Company, LLC”. So because there is an existing company “DB Shoe Company, LLC”, our desired LLC name is not distinguishable. Although it has periods after the D and the B, punctuation, remember, does not make a name distinguishable. So therefore, our desired LLC name would not be available for use. Takeaways: you want to search your desired LLC name every way you can think of to make sure that it is truly unique and distinguishable. The good news is that you can search as many names and variations as you like and it will cost you nothing. This is an important step in forming your LLC, so take the time to ensure your name is unique and does not conflict with any existing businesses. If you have any questions about the database, or if you are unsure your name is available for use, you can call the State at the number below this video. Once you find a name that is unique and distinguishable from existing businesses, you can then proceed to the next step. This now concludes the Name Research Lesson.

California Online Database

https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov/

State Contact Information

916-653-3794 (LLC Unit)
press 1 for new LLCs, press 2 for existing LLCs or general questions

213-897-3062 (LA Regional Office)
916-657-5448 (Main line; support is hard to get)
http://www.sos.ca.gov/administration/contact-information/

Next Step

After you’ve found an available LLC name, you can then proceed to Lesson 2: LLC Filing Forms.

Need to save time? Have a professional LLC service file for you:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)

Matt Horwitz on LinkedinMatt Horwitz on TwitterMatt Horwitz on Youtube
Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator at LLC University
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! We teach people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your entrepreneurial journey.

Leave a comment or question