California LLC Name Search: How to Search Name, Reserve it, Name Requirements, and More

The name search is an online service for limited liability companies and other businesses to confirm if a business name is available for registration.

A simple name search can help you avoid legal complications and save time for an LLC registration in the state of California.

Let us discuss what an LLC name search is, how does it work, and what are the requirements to register a valid business name in California.

What is the California LLC Name Search Service?

California business name search is an online service offered by the Secretary of State (SOS) California to search registered or reserved names of businesses in the state.

The SOS California has an online directory that helps new business applicants to search for business names for existing ones. If a limited liability company (LLC) or any other entity type is already registered, it will pop up in the search results.

Here are a few tips for you on how to conduct an LLC name search in California:

  • Visit the official search engine of the SOS California website for official results.
  • Use the advanced search feature and input more details about an LLC name search for improved results.
  • When searching for a business name, use the right entity type prefix like “LLC”, “Co”, “Ltd.” and so on in the advanced search settings for better results.
  • The search bar does not differentiate between the alternate alphabetical order.
  • The search bar does not include special characters, symbols, and special case letters.
  • Do not mix the singular/plural words for the name searches.

Alternatively, you can send a letter of inquiry to the SOS California office. The LLC/Business name availability form is available online on the SOS California website.

However, sending an LLC name availability inquiry may take several business days to receive a response from the SOS California office.

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California Business Name Search – Result Interpretation

When you input a few keywords in the search bar, it can show different results.

If the LLC name search is an exact match, you’ll see the registered LLC name in the results. It means the name you want to register for the LLC is “not available” and has been already issued to another company.

If you do not find an exact result match or the search suggests “no results”, then the name is available for registration. It simply means no one has yet registered an LLC for the name you’re looking to register.

In other cases, the LLC name search may offer similar or partially matching results. Although you can use these names when applying for an LLC registration but the SOS California office may reject your suggested name.

Why Should Businesses Use the California LLC Name Search Service?

Searching for an LLC name in the online directory of the Secretary of State California is not a mandatory or legal step to register a company.

It helps startups and new businesses to register an available and legal name though. You may have different LLC business name ideas and a prior search only validates your ideas.

Also, you can avoid the delay in the registration process when applying for an LLC as a duplicate name will be rejected by the SOS California.

Even when you do not plan to immediately apply for LLC registration, you can reserve the name for up to 60 days.

Top Tips for an LLC Name Search/Registration in California

Here are a few quick tips to improve your LLC business name search in California.

  • Choose an LLC name with a specific prefix like LLC. Other entity structures can use “Ltd”, “Co”, “LP”, etc.
  • Search an LLC name beyond California online directory as some businesses might be registered in other states.
  • Only reserve an LLC name if you plan to register a company within two months. Else, you’ll have to renew the reservation after the expiry period.
  • Follow the business name registration rules as defined by the SOS California to avoid rejection or a delay in the company registration process.
  • Work with an attorney or a consultant to avoid legal complications in the LLC registration process.
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Special Characters in an LLC Name Rules

When searching for an LLC name, you cannot use special characters or Numerics in the search bar. It is because these special characters are not allowed with an LLC name registration.

Some common examples of special characters include:

  • At / each @
  • Number #
  • Dollar $ Percent % Caret ^
  • Ampersand & Asterisk *
  • Plus / positive +, Minus -, Division, ÷
  • Equal =

Some common examples of punctuation marks include:

  • Slash / Comma , Back Slash \
  • Hyphen or Dash – Colon:
  • Underline _ , Angle Brackets < >, Exclamation Mark!
  • Parentheses () Double Quotation Mark “” Brackets [] Question Mark ? Braces {}

How to Reserve an LLC Name in California?

The Secretary of State California has a special LLC/business name reservation service through biz file online.

You can use the “biz file” online service to reserve an LLC name for 60 days.

The name reservation can be renewed with a 1-day gap after the initial period of reservation for 60 days expires. However, this name reservation service does not guarantee that the name is valid or legally acceptable by the SOS California office at this stage.

Therefore, the final confirmation of the LLC name registration will come at the time of application.

What are the Business Name Rules in California?

When searching or applying for name registration for an LLC in California, you should follow these rules to avoid any confusion or delay.

  • You cannot register an LLC name that is misleading to the public generally. Some examples of these misleading words include: “Agency,” “Commission,” “Department,” “Bureau,” “Division,” “Municipal” or “Board.”
  • You must use a unique LLC name that is distinguishable from an already registered business name in California. For example, “Dream Time LLC” and “D.R.E.M. Time LLC” are non-distinguishable names.
  • An LLC business entity cannot include a prefix like a bank, trust, trustee, incorporated, inc., corporation, or corp.
  • An LLC name cannot include a name that suggests the company is in the insurance industry.
  • Foreign-State LLCs may use an alternative business name if their registered name is not available in California.
  • An LLC name cannot use a name that suggests the business is a “not-for-profit” or public welfare entity.
  • The name must include the phrase “Limited Liability Company” with or without the abbreviations “LLC” or “L.L.C”.
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Foreign LLC Name Registration in California

An LLC registered in any other state willing to register in California can also register the same name if available.

You can use the SOS California name reservation service for an LLC that is not already registered or doing business within California.

The name registration for foreign-state LLCs is valid until the end of the calendar year and will require an annual renewal for preserving the name.

Foreign LLCs must provide a certificate of confirmation attested by a government office or relevant department as proof of company registration in another state.

If the name of the foreign LLC has already been registered in California, the company can use an alternative name for branding or continue on a “Doing Business As” basis.

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