How To Register a Business Name in California

Register your business’s name not only to follow the laws of California but also to protect your business’s interests. Registering a business name is easy and not that expensive. It’s even easier than coming up with an effective business name. Here’s how to register a business name in California:

  • Check the business name’s availability. You can’t register any business name that you’d like. Check if it’s available for use first. The business name must not be the same or very similar to any of the existing business names in California. You’ll only waste time and money if you register a business name without checking it first.

    There are many ways to check the name’s availability. One of your options is by sending a completed Name Availability Inquiry Letter to the California Secretary of State in Sacramento. You may also call its Accounting Office at (916) 653-1233 to inquire about the business name’s availability. Online databases, like this one from the US Patent and Trademark Office, can be used for free.

    It’s best that you think of as many business names as you can. This way, you’ll have more names to choose from in case some of those in the list are already in use.

  • Reserve the business name. So the business name is available. But you cannot register it yet. Don’t worry because you are allowed to reserve the business name for up to 60 days. Complete the Name Reservation Request Form first and then send it to the appropriate address. More details and instructions are available on the form.

    You may also call the Accounting Office at the phone number stated above to reserve the business name. You’ll be asked for $10 for every reservation and $4 for every search. Take note that reserving the business name is not a guarantee that it meets the state requirements. The business name will be reviewed only after sending the required documents to the California Secretary of State.

  • Register the business name to the appropriate office. Determine your business’s legal structure first. Corporations, limited liability companies, and non-profit businesses and partnerships must register the business name in the State of California. Here are the forms for these types of business structures.

    Meanwhile, sole proprietorship companies use the owner’s name as the business name. But if you want a different business name, it will be considered as a fictitious name or trade name. In that case, you should register the business name in the California Secretary of State. Here’s their address: Secretary of State, Document Filing Support Unit, P.O. Box 944228, Sacramento, CA 94244-2280. You may drop off the business name application to that address to speed up the waiting period. Call (916) 657-5448 for more information about registering the business name. Visit the business name registration page also for other requirements and details to ensure legal protection for the business name.

Registering a business name in California is only one of the many things that have to be processed when starting up a business. You still need to get your Employer Identification Number, register for the state taxes, and hire employees. At least, successfully registering your business name is already a big step in establishing your business in California.


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