This article explains how to find:
- Legal name for a company in California
- The California Registered Agent for a company
To do this, we'll be using a corporation search engine called OpenCorporates.com.
First, search for the name registered in California of the company
Many corporations use different names for common language and marketing (for example United Airlines) vs. their formal legal name (for example United Airlines Inc.). Additionally some companies have different subsidiaries named different things for each state they operate in.
- Search OpenCorporates for California (click here for California specific link).
- Type in the name as fully as you know and search
- Check the box that says "Exclude Inactive"
- Look at the address and date in parentheses next to each company to find the one that's right for you.
- The bolded text is the legal name of the company. Click it to see all the information about the company.
Next, find the registered agent in California for the company
The registered agent of the company is the legally designated person who is authorized to accept lawsuits on behalf of the company.
Although you can put a director, manager, or executive of the company, or you can put in the registered agent. It is usually better to put a formal registered agent instead to avoid difficulties in finding the person.
- Click into the bolded text in our search results above
- Look for the field called "Agent Name". This should be the name of the agent you put on your legal papers.
- Look for the field called "Agent Address". This should be the address of the agent you put on your legal papers.
That's all it takes to find the registered agent of the company you're suing. You can enter this information on the defendant step when you're filling out the information on Dispute or type it in manually on the correct lines. Be careful not to put the agent as the Defendant you're suing. Usually, you're not trying to sue the registered agent individual, you're trying to sue the company they represent.
Frequently Asked Questions
I found lots of company names and can't figure out which one - what do I do?
Try to use the address to figure out the right one. You can also go to the website of your company, look for the terms of service and see if they mention a more formal name in there. You can also click into a company, and see if they are registered in other states (particularly Delaware) to figure out which one is the right one. Finally, some companies do have several subsidiaries all in the same state. In this case, see if they actually might be using the same registered agent, which could help (though you'll still need to figure out the right entity to name in your lawsuit). Worst case, you can try one and see if they respond to your lawsuit.
I heard about a Secretary of State search - where is that?
Every state maintains an official database of corporations registered in that state. Find the website for the California state database here.
What happens if I don't put the right agent on my paperwork
Your lawsuit could be dismissed as invalid. You could also open yourself up to legal risk if the other party thinks you intentionally lied about the agent to avoid serving papers to the right people. In general, if you need help with this, you should contact an attorney to get some advice (you can usually pay them by the hour for general advice like this).
I need more help. Where do I go?
You should contact an attorney if you need help figuring out which legal entity to sue, who the right registered agent is, or anything else that's a legal question. You can pay an attorney for 30 minutes of their time to ask a question about legal entity and registered agent, or, you could call the free Legal Aid clinic in your city or state to get free legal advice from an attorney.