California Name Reservation

Before you start a new California LLC or corporation, you may want to consider reserving a name for your company. This may be especially useful for entrepreneurs who know they are going to form a company but do not intend to do so for a number of months. Few things are as frustrating as selecting the “perfect” name for your business only to find that it was has been taken by another entrepreneur.

Searching for Available Business Names

Luckily, searching for an available name for your California corporation or LLC is simple. You can conduct a California business name search online. Searches will reveal which business names are already in use by other entities.

It is important to remember that you cannot register a business name that is already in use by another company. Whatever name you choose, it must not be too similar to the name of another company currently on record.

Because there is often a lag-time for updating online records, California supplies a free Name Availability Inquiry Letter which can be mailed to the Secretary of State.

For entrepreneurs that check name availability on a frequent basis, the Secretary of State also has a Prepay Priority Telephone Service. This service requires the setup of a prepay account with a minimum deposit of $100. Once this account is setup, entrepreneurs can call the Secretary of State directly to check name availability and to reserve a name. There is a $4 search charge and a $10 reservation fee.

To establish a Prepay Priority Telephone Service account, email a request to the SOS Fiscal office.

How to Reserve a Business Name

Once you have settled on a name for your California LLC or corporation, you can reserve the name by submitting a Name Reservation Request. This form can be mailed to the Secretary of State or delivered in-person.

There is a $10 filing fee for all Name Reservation Requests. If you deliver the form in-person, there is an additional $10 fee.

The Name Reservation form allows you to propose three possible business names which you can list in order of preference. The Secretary of State will grant only one name to your company.

A name reservation is good for 60 days, after which the name will be available for registration once again.

Entity Names and State Law

California state law governs the naming of business entities. Specific rules are set for both corporations and LLCs.

For example, a name that is “likely to mislead the public” or that resembles another entity name “so closely as to tend to deceive” will not be accepted by the Secretary of State. Deceptive and misleading names extend not just to closely-related spellings, but also to corporate designators. If there is already a Joe Bob LLC, you cannot form Joe Bob Limited Liability Company. These names are too similar and would be too easily confused.

There are also restrictions on names related to specific industries. For example, state law prohibits entrepreneurs from registering a business with the words Bank, Trust or Trustee within the name (unless granted approval by the Commissioner of Business Oversight).

It is important to keep these various restrictions in mind when submitting a name for reservation. The Secretary of State will reject any reservation that does not adhere to the law.