How to Search for Available Business Names in California

by Jessica Jones; Updated September 26, 2017
Check the availability of business names before registering your business.

Checking the availability of a business name helps prevent two businesses from having the same or similar names. If a business name is already registered in the state of California, you cannot legally use the name for your business. When submitting a Name Availability Inquiry Letter, you can submit up to three possible business names. You can then submit additional paperwork to reserve the name while filing registration paperwork.

Items you will need

  • Name Availability Inquiry Letter
  • Self-addressed stamped envelope
  • Name Reservation Request
Step 1

Fill out a Name Availability Inquiry Letter. You can download the letter from the California Secretary of State website. Send the letter to the secretary of state's office. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Step 2

Select the business entity type to be checked. You can choose from corporation, limited liability company or limited partnership.

Step 3

Include up to three business name options for verification. You will be notified of whether the names are available. Alternative business names may be offered in the response.

Step 4

Reserve available business names for up to 60 days by filing a Name Reservation Request. This is to prevent another party from using the name while you are filing the registration paperwork.

Tips

  • If the business name you want to use is currently unavailable, check on its availability anytime by setting up a prepaid account with the secretary of state's office. This account allows you to conduct searches without having to fill out a Name Availability Inquiry Letter each time. Each search will cost $4 and you will be able to conduct searches over the phone.

Warnings

  • The secretary of state's office only checks for available names registered with the office. Registered trademarks and service marks are not verified through this office. Legally, you cannot use a business name that is already part of a trademark or service mark. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to learn more about conducting trademark and service mark searches.

About the Author

Based in the Washington metro area, Jessica Jones has been a freelance writer since 2006, specializing in business topics. Her fiction has also been featured in publications such as "The Jamaican Observer Sunday Literary Supplement" and at websites including HackWriters. Jones earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Lesley University.

Photo Credits

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