Secretary of State LLC Name Search
Starting an LLC comes with various benefits, such as management flexibility, less compliance paperwork, and an easy startup process. However, it all starts with finding the ideal name for your limited liability company.
Additionally, you’ll need to conduct an LLC name search to ensure that the name isn’t already in use by an existing business in your state of formation.
The following step-by-step guide will show you how to perform an LLC name search in your state.
How to search for a business name
When you start an LLC, you’ll need to register a document called the Articles of Organization. This is also referred to as the Certificate of Formation or Articles of Formation, depending on the state in which you are registering your business.
The Secretary of State is the government organization responsible for registering your business entity name. The Secretary of State is also known as the Department of State or Division of Corporations.
Since your Articles of Organization will need to be registered with the Secretary of State, the business name must differ significantly from any other LLC in the state.
The good news is that checking the availability of an LLC name is relatively easy to do once you know the steps to follow. In fact, every state has a website that you can use to conduct a business name search.
By using our step-by-step guide, it’s fairly simple to search for a business entity name in your state.
LLC name lookup by state
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LLC business name requirements
When brainstorming LLC names, it is important to remember that while you want your business name to be unique and catchy, it must also comply with state naming requirements. While each state has its own set of naming rules, there are some requirements that are common across all states. The general rules are as follows:
- Your business name must be unique. Irrespective of business structure, be it a limited liability company, limited liability partnership, nonprofit, for-profit corporation, etc., multiple businesses cannot have the same business name. The most obvious reason is that it will be extremely confusing for customers. While the definition of unique will vary from state to state, the general rule is that the name cannot be too similar to other existing business names in the state. Simply using definite articles such as “a,” “and,” “an,” etc. is not enough to make the name unique.
- You cannot legally form a business with names that imply that your business is affiliated with any state or federal organization or agency. Some of the words you cannot use in your business name are FDA, FBI, Police, Department of Revenue, Treasury, etc.
- You also cannot use the term “Olympic.” Neither can you use any terms or trademarks associated with the Olympic organization.
- Avoid names that imply that your business is formed for unlawful or illegal purposes or anything other than what is stated in your Articles of Organization.
- Your name should also include a designator. The designator is a specific identifier used at the end of your LLC name to identify the type of business being formed. In the case of a limited liability company, a designator like “LLC” should be used.
LLC name search – step by step
Conducting an LLC name search using our step-by-step guide is easy. Prior to performing the actual search, you’ll need to carry out a few extra steps as outlined below:
Decide on a suitable name for your LLC
You’ll need to decide on what type of name you want. You may prefer a more traditional name or a more quirky one. Ultimately, it needs to align with the nature of your business, your products and services, and your target audience.
Consider the following when deciding on your LLC name:
- What do you want your LLC name to achieve or accomplish?
- What elements would you like to include in your business entity name?
- Would you prefer to go for an abstract name, or would you rather have the name describe what your business does functionally?
- How would you like your potential customers to find you? Will it be from advertising efforts, online search engines, or word of mouth?
- Who is the target audience for your services or products? What type of name do you think would grab their attention?
Create a list of potential LLC names
In this step, you’ll need to start generating ideas for your business name. The advantage is that there are many tools and resources that you can use to brainstorm, such as:
- Having brainstorming sessions with your family.
- Keeping a notebook since inspiration can strike anywhere and at any time.
- Have a sneak peek at your competitors’ names and check if there’s a theme.
- Discover the keywords associated with the traits you want to reveal in your business.
- Use business name generators from professional websites like Namechk.com.
- Then decide whether the desired name may be easily incorporated into branding like a logo.
- Is the business name easy to pronounce and spell?
- Is it easy to remember?
- Does the business name match the intended approach, tone, and image you envision for your LLC?
- Is it also available as a domain name?
- Does it clearly represent the products or services you are selling?
- Are social media handles and profiles available for the LLC name?
All these suggestions will ultimately help narrow down your list of potential LLC names.
Check your state’s naming guidelines
Although naming requirements will vary from one state to the next, some rules remain the same and are as follows:
- The LLC name cannot be in use by an existing business.
- The LLC name must be significantly different from any other entity name.
- The LLC name must include the term limited liability company or abbreviations of this term.
- The LLC name cannot imply that your business is associated with a government agency like the FBI, Treasury or State Department, etc.
- The LLC name cannot imply that it is formed for any other purpose other than what is stated in the Articles of Organization.
- Do not add definite articles which are words like (and, an, a, etc.)
- If your LLC name may be easily confused with another existing business, do not opt for that name.
The above-mentioned naming rules apply to all states, and therefore if your LLC name does not meet any of these requirements, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Do an LLC name search
Meeting the relevant state laws is mandatory as your LLC is formed at the state level. One of these compulsory laws involves double-checking whether the entity name is in use by another business.
Conduct an LLC name search on the relevant Secretary of State’s website
Depending on the state you’re filing your business in, you’ll need to log on to that specific Department of State’s website and use their name availability search tool or check the relevant business entity database.
More LLC name considerations
After conducting the LLC name availability search, other naming considerations such as the ones below may help protect your business name:
Conduct a trademark search
Your desired LLC name may be available at the time of your search on the Secretary of State’s website. However, that is no indication of whether it is being used as a trademark by another entity.
This is because most states only check name availability against their own business filing records and not necessarily against the state, federal, or common law trademark records.
However, you should note that trademark infringement comes with severe consequences and penalties, so it is crucial that you check whether another business trademarks the name. Perform a trademark search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website to determine whether the names you’re considering are trademarked or too similar to existing trademarked names.
Check whether your LLC name is available as a domain
If your LLC name is available as a domain name, then you’re in luck. However, your business name and domain name do not necessarily need to match. Your business name is used for branding, identification, and legal purposes, while your domain name is a digital website address.
Use a professional service like Namechk.com to check domain name availability. Namechk.com checks your preferred names against more than 100 different platforms and social media networks. There’s also a handy business name generator allowing you to save time, brainstorm easier and save money all while finding your ideal domain name.
Consider reserving your LLC name
If the name you’re considering is available for business registration, then it is open to anyone to use. This is why it is recommended that you reserve the available LLC name. Most states allow you to reserve the name for a specific period of time until you are ready to initiate business filings. The usual time is 60 to 120 days, but this timeframe will vary from state to state.
Name reservation renewals are also possible in most states, and this is a good way to hold on to a name in the event that you are not able to register it within the initial name reservation timeframe. Name reservation is a great way to make sure that other companies are prevented from using your desired name.
So they will not be able to qualify under, form under, register, reserve, or change their business name to your reserved name. Name reservations may also be filed in other states if you plan on conducting business in more than one state.
Do I need a registered agent for my LLC?
Yes, when you register an LLC, you’ll also need to nominate a registered agent. This individual must be at least 18 years of age and have a physical address in the state. This individual is then responsible for accepting service of process and official paperwork from the state on behalf of your LLC.
What search criteria does the Secretary of States’ LLC name search include?
The search criteria will vary from one SOS website to another. However, it is not uncommon to have the option of narrowing down your results by selecting the search type and agent name or ticking the “exact match” box. Most SOS LLC name searches allow you to do an advanced search to narrow down results further.
Does registering my name prevent others from using it?
Registering your LLC name in one state does not necessarily prevent others from using it. For example, it can be used by a business in another state, a sole proprietorship, or a partnership. So the best way to protect your business name is to have it trademarked via the USPTO website.
How much does it cost to register an LLC name?
Depending on the state you’re filing in, the process of incorporation may cost anywhere between $40 to $500 to start an LLC. You may choose to carry out the business registration on your own or hire a professional LLC service to do so on your behalf.
Can I search for an LLC name using the file number?
Depending on which SOS gov website you’re using to search for LLC names, you may have the option to search for a business using the file number. So if you have it on hand, you’re free to use it to narrow down your search.
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