California LLC Name Search

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Searching your California LLC name

In this lesson we will discuss searching your California LLC name. This is the first step to forming an LLC in California.

This is done by comparing your desired LLC name against existing businesses registered in California.

Your California LLC name must comply with the requirements of the California Revised Uniform LLC Act, in addition to other rules.

If you know what you’re doing and you’re just looking for the name search link, here it is:

California Secretary of State: Business Entities Search

However, we recommend reading this page first so you don’t make any mistakes when choosing your California LLC name.

California LLC Name Requirements

Before doing an LLC name search in California, there are some requirements and restrictions that you should know about. The majority of these come from:

Comma in California LLC Name

You can have a California LLC name with or without a comma. Both are accepted by the Secretary of State.

For example: If your desired business name is “Orange Grove Brewery”, you can form your LLC with either of the following names:

  • Orange Grove Brewery LLC
  • Orange Grove Brewery, LLC

Or, instead of having “LLC” as your designator (the ending), there are other options in California.

California LLC Designator

As per Section 17701.08 (a), your California LLC must have one of the following designators (“endings”):

  • LLC
  • L.L.C.
  • Ltd. Liability Co.
  • Limited Liability Co.
  • Ltd. Liability Company
  • Limited Liability Company

Not allowed in your California LLC name

Your California LLC name cannot imply that it is a Corporation or any other type of business entity that is not an LLC.

You cannot use the following words or designators anywhere in your California LLC name:

  • Inc. or Incorporated
  • Corp. or Corporation
  • Partnership
  • LP or L.P.
  • LLP or L.L.P.

You also cannot use the following words in your LLC name:

  • Bank
  • Trust
  • Insurer
  • Insurance Company

Additionally, your California LLC name cannot include words that are prohibited by law. For example, you can’t make your California LLC sound like it’s a government agency. You can’t use words like Police, Fire Department, Federal, Government, United States of America, City, Town, or County.

Said another way, you can’t use an LLC name that would mislead the public.

Also, you don’t have to just file your LLC and hope that its name is allowable. If you’re confused by the LLC name rules, you can call the California Secretary of State – LLC Department at 916-653-3794.

Your California LLC name must be distinguishable

As per Section 21005.5 of the California Code of Regulations, your desired LLC name must be distinguishable (unique) upon the records of the California Secretary of State.

LLC name distinguishability has many components.

For example, when the LLC examiners (the people who review LLC documents) are looking at your LLC name, they will be comparing the “core” of your LLC name to existing businesses in California.

They will be ignoring:

  • designators
  • articles and conjunctions (the, and, &, a, an)
  • punctuation
  • capitalization
  • special characters
  • singular and plural words
  • and certain abbreviations

For additional and specific LLC name rules in California, please see the following PDF: California Secretary of State: Business Name Regulations.

How to search your California LLC name

  1. Go to the CA Secretary of State: Business Entities Search page.
  2. Select “LP/LLC Name” and run a few searches.
  3. Enter the first 2 to 3 words of your desired LLC name. This will help make sure that you see everything that is potentially similar. For example, if your desired LLC name is “Fitness Studios & More LLC“, just search “Fitness Studio“.

Search tips:

  • Leave out the designator (ex: “LLC”) when doing searches.
  • Leave out punctuation like commas, periods, apostrophes, etc.
  • Don’t worry about uppercase or lowercase letters. The database ignores capitalization.

Want to watch a video tutorial instead?

The video below shows you how to search LLC names in California.

  • The video starts with LLC name rules in California. Then at the 10 minute mark, you can see LLC searches being completed.
  • The state has since updated the design of their database. However, it’s still the same database and the way you search an LLC name is still the same.
California LLC - Name Search

How to interpret the database results

  • If the results show business names that are not too similar to yours (meaning your LLC name is distinguishable), then your California LLC name is available for use.
  • If you see a “no matching entities found” message, your California LLC name is available for use. This usually means your name is super unique and/or specific. That’s why no other business names show up.
  • If your desired California LLC name appears exactly as you want it, then you’ll need to come up with a different name. This one is not available.
  • If the results show a business name that is deceptively similar to yours, then you’ll need to come up with a different California LLC name. This one is not available.

California LLC Name Statuses

You will see different business entity statuses when searching your LLC name:

  • Cancelled
  • Inactive
  • Suspended
  • Dissolved
  • Surrendered
  • Merged Out
  • and more

While some of these statuses may sound like an existing business name is now available to use, we don’t recommend using the name of any business with these statuses. There are chances for confusion, and in some cases, the businesses that were using those names may still have certain legal rights to those names.

Next Step: Registered Agent

After you’ve found an available LLC name in California, you can then proceed to the next lesson: California LLC Registered Agent.

California Secretary of State Contact Info

If you have any questions you can contact the LLC Department at the California Secretary of State. Their phone number is 916-653-3794. And their hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, Pacific Time.

California Secretary of State
916-653-3794 (LLC Department)
916-657-5448 (Business Programs)
Address: 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
California Secretary of State: Business Programs
California Secretary of State: Contact Information

Matt Horwitz


Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Matt Horwitz has been the leading expert on LLC education for the past decade. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC that other companies weren't offering. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

CALIFORNIA LLC GUIDE

Follow the lessons below to form your California LLC.

​​Overview

  1. ​​Name Search
  2. ​​Registered Agent
  3. ​​Articles of Organization
  4. ​​Operating Agreement
  5. ​​EIN Number
  6. ​​Statement of Information
  7. ​​$800 Annual Tax

6 comments on “California Name Search”

Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

  1. Hi Matt,
    I found that the name I wanted for my LLC was used by someone until 2009, and since 2009 it is in canceled status. Do you know if I can use this name?
    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Anna, yes, that name is available to use. I also recommend searching the name on the US trademark website and doing a few google searches to make sure the name isn’t in use.

  2. One more question- it looks like the name is not used by any one as LLC. Can I just put in the form that Northwest provides or do I have to trademark it? Is trademarking of the name (and a logo) a necessity?

    • Hi Anna, yes, you can enter your desired LLC name in the California LLC Articles of Organization and send it to the state. No, a trademark is not required. Most businesses only apply for a trademark after their business is working/successful and they feel like they have a strong brand name and they want national protection.

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How to form a US LLC

Non-US residents: If you want to form an LLC in the US, we recommend hiring doola.

doola specializes in forming US LLCs for international entrepreneurs.

They'll form your LLC, open your business bank account, and help with taxes. doola also has excellent customer service.

Hope that helps!

Matt Horwitz founder of LLC University
Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator
LLC University®