Is your Name Available? | How to do a Free LLC Name Search

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Quick Reference

Did you know each state requires each LLC and corporation has to have a unique name from the others?  Learn more about LLC name requirements, considerations and how to find out if business name is available.

When forming an LLC, the Articles or Organization, which is called the Articles of Formation or Certificate of Formation in some states, is the document used for registering a business entity.  This registration is done with the Secretary of State, sometimes called the Division of Corporations, Department of State, etc.  In the Articles of Organization, information about the business such as the business name, address, registered agent, members, and more depending on the state.

Before starting to form an LLC, we want to first find out if a business name is taken.  To do that, we need to start with a free business name search from the Secretary of State’s website in the state where the LLC will be forming.  Links to each of the Secretary of State‘s website and instructions on how to do an LLC name search is listed below.

Name Requirements

Each state has different requirements for Limited Liability Company names.  Some of the common requirements include:

Designator – A designator is a unique identifier used at the end of a corporation or LLC’s name to identify what entity the business is. For LLCs the common designators that are available include; Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, LLC, L.L.C., LC or L.C.

A comma is allowed, but not required after the business name.  For example, “Cowboy Cleaners LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” are both acceptable.

 Uniqueness – Each state requires every LLC, corporation and Limited Partnership to have a unique name.  The test of what is considered as unique varies by state but is commonly referred to as a name that is not confusingly similar to other names.

A few examples of common things that don’t make a name unique:

Plural vs non plural – “Cowboy Cleaner” and “Cowboy Cleaners”
Type of business entity – “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, Inc”
Indefinite Articles like “A”, “An” & “The” – “The Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC”
Alpha Numeric – “3 Cleaners, LLC” and “Three Cleaners, LLC”
Deceptively Similar – “Cowboy Cleaning, LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC”

Other LLC Name Considerations

Trademark Search – Before settling on a name, you want to make sure there isn’t a federal trademark protecting it.  See how to do a trademark name search.

Domain Search – Look to see if a domain name is available that is the same or close to your business name.  Besides being able to secure this name to use, it may uncover a competitor with trademark rights.  Do a domain name search here.

LLC Name Lookup by State

Before starting your business and forming an LLC, check to see if the business name is available first.  Below are links to each state’s business entity database so you can do your own free LLC name search.

Common Questions when Registering a Name

In most states you can reserve the name (by paying a small filing fee) if you aren’t ready to file the LLC.  Another option available in many states called the delayed effective date.  The delayed effective date lets you file an LLC today but it doesn‘t start until a later date.  Most states allow up to 90 days. 

Filing your LLC and registering a name with the Secretary of State only stops someone from using the same LLC or corporation name in your state only.  Someone could form a sole proprietorship or partnership and use the same name (without the LLC designator) or even form an entity in another state with the same business name. 

To stop someone from using your business name, you will want to learn more about trademarks.   

The cost to register an LLC name varies by state but is commonly around $25.  Remember almost all states don’t require a separate registration of a business name when forming an LLC.  The filing fee for the Articles of Organization includes the name reservation.

Rules by state vary regarding the entity designator for an LLC.  Common ones include LLC, L.L.C., Limited, Company, Limited Liability Company, etc.  

Thoughts vary on useage however it should be used on all legal documents or documents customers will see so they will reasonable understand the business is an LLC (tax forms, contracts, invoices, business cards, etc). 

There is some debate whether the LLC should be used on a logo, but it is often recommended to not use it there.