California Business Name Search (Step-by-Step Guide)

Last updated: March 15th, 2024
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Even with the help of business services through the Secretary of State, registering a business has financial consequences. Always discuss business setup with a business attorney.

How to search for California business names

On the business search page, a prospective business owner can search for company names in the search tool by the entity name or entity number. Searches are not case-sensitive. The system removes most punctuation, so it is not necessary to enter any. It will also group together characters and letters that fall before and after any punctuation, including:

  • Periods.
  • Single and double quotes.
  • Commas.
  • Forward and backward slashes.
  • Left and right parenthesis.

For example, if a business owner searches for A. B. C., the system returns business names with A, B, and C in the name. If the search is for A.B.C., the search returns business names with A.B.C. and ABC in the name.

The system does not ignore spacing. If a business name has a space, be sure to enter it. For example, if you search for “XYZ Accountant,” the search will return entities with those words. If you search for “XYZ Ac countant,” the system will not find any business entities.

Searching for a single keyword will return more results than searching for two or more keywords. Finally, if you search for a keyword with more than 12 characters, the system ignores any character after the twelfth character.

California business search: Searching for the exact name

If a prospective business owner wants to see if someone has the exact name she wants, she can enter the exact entity name, including spaces and punctuation. Similar names in the State of California are not allowed.

Additional business entity search types

A prospective business owner can also search for entities using the “Begins with” function. This function allows a business name searcher to enter one or more of the first words of the entity. For example, if the business owner wants to name his business “California’s best accounting and financial consultants,” he could search for “California’s best” to return results with those two words.

Entity number

The California Secretary of State (SoS) assigns identification numbers upon completion of registering a business. If an individual wishes to search by entity number, he must enter the appropriate letter prior to the seven-digit number. For example, to search for a corporation with entity number 1234567, enter “C1234567” to find the corporation with that number. If you do not enter a letter, the system search will return zero results.

How to register a business name in California

Once a prospective business owner has determined which business name she wants, she is ready to file. In California, a business owner can file online at the California Secretary of State.

If the business owner wishes to expedite the filing, the fee is $350. If the business owner wishes same-day expedite, the fee is $750.

A business owner may also drop off the application at 1500 11th Street in Sacramento Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m., with the exception of state holidays.

Drops off requests receive priority over mail-in requests and come with a $15 special handling fee. A $10 handling fee in addition to filing fees is applied to name reservations.

California trademark/DBA search

Businesses can trademark their logos and trade names. Before creating a company and after choosing the business name, search the trademark database to ensure that the business logo is available.

Registering for a trademark in California does not protect the business name and logo from use in other states.

Search for trademarks in California by selecting the appropriate search type and entering keywords. The searcher can also use search filters.

If a business owner wishes to determine whether a business name or logo has been trademarked at the federal level, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Check if the domain name is available

Before a business registers its name, the business owner should take additional steps to ensure that the name is available for domain and social media use.

Business owners who wish to have a domain name the same as the business name should search for domain name availability prior to registering the business. Businesses are not required to register a domain name with the California Secretary of State, so the domain name you want might not be available.

It is not mandatory that the domain name be the same as the business name; however, it is preferable. A prospective business owner can search for domain name availability on sites such as GoDaddy.

Check if the social media name is available

If a business owner plans on a social media presence, he should also check for availability on the social media platforms he wishes to use. For Twitter and Facebook, simply type the business name in the search box. If someone is already using it, it will appear in the search results.

As with the domain name, it does not have to be the same as the business name, but it is preferable.

Naming considerations for California business entities

California requires businesses to append an entity type to the business name.

California sole proprietorships and partnerships

A sole proprietorship or general partnership does not have to register with the California Secretary of State; thus, it does not have to follow naming conventions. However, we recommend registering with a DBA so that another person or entity cannot use the name you choose.

California Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)

A business that wishes to incorporate as a limited liability company must include one of the following in the LLC name:

  • Limited liability company;
  • LLC;
  • L.L.C.;
  • Ltd;
  • Co.

Limited liability partnerships must use one of the following:

  • Limited partnership;
  • LP;
  • L.P.;
  • Limited liability limited partnership
  • LLLP;
  • L.L.L.P.

California corporations, including nonprofit corporations

Corporations must include one of the following in their corporation names:

  • Corporation;
  • Company;
  • Incorporation;
  • Incorporated;
  • Corp;
  • Co;
  • Limited;
  • Inc;
  • PC;
  • Ltd;
  • Professional Corporation.


How do I register a general partnership?

Prospective business owners must file a general partnership on paper and submit it to the California Secretary of State, Sacramento office. The form is the Statement of Partnership Authority (Form GP-1). Filing a general partnership is permissive, not mandatory, though we recommend it so that another business cannot use the name. Businesses can also register a general partnership with the county clerk.

How do I obtain the necessary permits and business licenses?

Not all businesses have the same licenses. The permits and licenses you need depend on the industry and location of your business. Enter the city and business type at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to learn which permits and licenses you need.

How do I file a fictitious business name for my general partnership or sole proprietor business?

File fictitious names with the county in which the business is located. Each county might have specific requirements.

How often does a business have to file a Statement of Information?

The requirements are different for statements of information. These requirements vary from entity type to entity type and the corporation’s entity type. In most cases, entities file yearly during the anniversary week.

What is a registered agent?

A registered agent is a third party that accepts legal documents, including notices to file articles of incorporation and other documents from the Secretary of State and court documents. The registered agent then forwards the documents to the business owner.

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