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How To Do A California Business Name Search

How To Do A California Business Name Search

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How To Do A California Business Name Search

Starting a business in California involves several steps, but one of the first is choosing a business name. This step is a little more complicated when setting up an LLC or corporation in California because these business structures must have a unique name. 

To help you verify that your corporation or LLC is available to use, our step-by-step guide will show you how to quickly do a California business name search using the California Secretary of State business name database.

Related: Guide to starting a business in California

Step 1: Visit the California Entity Name Database

Go to the California Secretary of State’s website.

Step 2: Search for a Business Name

Select the type of entity you are searching for (Corporation or LP/LLC), enter your desired name, and click “Search.”

To register a name for a corporation or LLC in California, it must:

  • Not be the same too similar to an existing name in the business entity database and
  • Not be misleading to the public.

In this example, we will do a name search for “Sew What” as a corporation.

How to do a California Business Name Search

Step 3: Review Results

When we search for a corporation for “Sew What,” we get several results, some similar and some not. If the name you search comes back with a record, be sure to look at the “Status” column. In this example, several have been suspended or dissolved. Depending on how long they have been inactive, you may still have the opportunity to register the name.

California Business Entity Search Results

If you were to click on one of the records in the “Entity Name” column, you can see additional information about the business. In this example, we will look at the last one, “Sew What LLC.”

CA LLC Name Search Result

Before selecting a name, you want to be sure yours is not too similar to the other names in the database.  Also, note that registering a business name does not mean someone else may have ownership in another state.  For that, you will want to research trademarks before choosing a business name.

Another search result is when there are “No matching entries found.”  This means there isn’t a similar name in the database.  The result looks like the screenshot below.

What information can be found on the California business entity database?

The California business entity search can uncover several pieces of information about businesses in the state. Some of the highlights include:

  • Registration Date: Date of filing with the Secretary of State
  • Entity Type: Such as a corporation, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership, Limited Partnership, or non-profit
  • Status – “FTB Suspended,” “SOS/FTB Suspended,” or “Dissolved,” means the business is not active in the state.  “Active” means the business entity is in good standing, and all reports and filing fees are up to date.
  • Agent: A California registered agent is the singular point of contact for the entity should the state need to contact the business or if there is legal action against the business.  This is often one of the owners, and their home address is often used, making their home address public information.  Many people find this concerning and use a Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent, so their home address isn’t publicly listed.
  • Entity Address: Address of the principal address
  • Statement of Information: The last area contains the filings for the Statement of Information, which is the annual update to the Articles of Incorporation (corp) / Articles of Organization (LLC).

California Business Name Search FAQs

How do I find the business name of a California sole proprietorship?

A California sole proprietorship or general partnership can use the small business owner(s) full first and last name as the business name, but many will want to operate under a specific business name. Unlike corporations and LLCs in California, the names of sole proprietorships and partnerships are not listed on the state database. Instead, they are registered with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located. 

To register the business name, they will register for a California Assumed Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, or Fictitious Business Name with the County Clerk.

How do I form a California LLC?

Before starting your business and forming an LLC, be sure to do the business entity search first to make sure the name is available to use.  Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form a California LLC.

Unlike most states, California requires an LLC operating agreement, which are the rules for how the LLC operates.

After forming a Limited Liability Company, be sure to register for any California business licenses and possibly obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).  This is a “social security number” for the business.  There is no cost to get one through the IRS.

What are the naming guidelines for a California LLC?

In addition to being unique, the LLC’s name must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, LLC, L.L.C., etc., and it may not use restricted words such as bank or insurance unless the entity is licensed to operate as such.

Can an LLC name be reserved in California?

If you aren’t ready to form your LLC but want to reserve a name, an available name may be reserved for up to 60 days by filing a Name Reservation Request form.


  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

How To Do A California Business Name Search

How To Do A California Business Name Search

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