How to Search Available LLC Names in California
1. Check California LLC Naming Guidelines
Before you do a name availability search, it makes sense to check if your business name meets the basic state guidelines.
Some key guidelines for California LLC names include:
- Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- The name must be distinguishable from any other LLC registered with the Secretary of State.
Keep an eye out for restricted words. These words, such as “FBI” or “Treasury,” are often restricted to keep your LLC from sounding like an official institution. California also has the following restrictions for LLC names:
- The name cannot include the following words: bank, trust, trustee, incorporated, inc., corporation, or corp.
- The name cannot include the words “insurer” or “insurance company” or any words suggesting that it is in the business of issuing policies of insurance and assuming insurance risks.
For more information, check out California’s official state statutes.
2. Complete an LLC Business Name Search
Once you know your LLC name meets California guidelines, it’s time to make sure it’s available by using the California Business Search tool. You will need to select if you are searching for a corporation name or an LLC/LLP name when using the search tool.
It is important that your name be distinguishable from all other business names. In California, a distinguishable name is one that contains different letters or numerals, or letters or numerals in a different order.
The following differences do NOT make a name distinguishable in California:
- Existence or absence of business identifiers (e.g., LLC, Corp., etc.)
- Difference in letter case or use of superscript or subscript
- Use of different typeface, punctuation, or spaces
Failure to use a distinguishable name could result in your formation filing being rejected.
What if my LLC name is already taken? If your LLC name is unavailable in California, it’s time to come up with some new ideas.
How to Reserve or Register Your Business Name
Reserve Your Name
You can optionally reserve your LLC name in California for up to 60 days before you officially register it. This prevents other businesses from registering your name until you have the opportunity to register it yourself.
Name reservations can be filed via hard copy with the California Secretary of State. The filing fee is $10.
Register Your Name
If you want to register a legal entity name for your LLC, you can do so at the time of formation filing. California provides a section for your desired LLC name on the Articles of Organization.
Registering a DBA (doing business as) name, called a fictitious business name in California, is a separate process that requires filing with the county or counties where you do business.
California LLC Name Search FAQ
How do I check if an LLC name is taken in California?
You can use the California Business Search tool to see if your preferred business name is available.
Should I name my LLC after myself?
While there’s no rule against naming an LLC after yourself, most experts advise against doing this.
One of the benefits of starting an LLC is the ability to choose a different name for your business, which can make it sound more professional.
What words can’t be used in a California LLC name?
Business names generally can’t include words that imply the company is a banking or financial institution or that it’s affiliated with a local, state, or federal government agency.
Additionally, California LLC names cannot include the following words: bank, trust, trustee, incorporated, inc., corporation, or corp.
Names also cannot include the words “insurer” or “insurance company” or any words suggesting that it is in the business of issuing policies of insurance and assuming insurance risks.
Should I use an LLC name generator?
If you’re having trouble choosing a name for your LLC, an LLC name generator can help you come up with some ideas.
What is a brand name?
A brand name is a name a company gives to a product or line of products. It can be the same as the company’s name or something different.
Do I have to include LLC in my name?
Yes. California requires that its LLCs use “Limited Liability Company” or one of its abbreviations (e.g., LLC or L.L.C.) in their legal name.
Do I need to renew my business name in California?
California does not require LLCs to renew their legal names, but counties may require LLCs to renew their fictitious business names. For example, Los Angeles County requires fictitious business names to be renewed every five years.
The renewal process varies by county. Check with your county clerk’s office for forms and fees.
Can my business name be different from my LLC name in California?
Some companies choose to operate under a name that’s different from their legal name. This can either be called a “doing business as” (DBA) name or a fictitious business name in California.
In California, fictitious business names are filed with the county or counties where the LLC does business.
Does my LLC need a DBA name?
Your LLC doesn’t need a DBA name unless it plans to do business under a name other than its legal name. Learn more about California DBAs by reading our guide to filing for a DBA and selecting California from the dropdown menu.