Is your LLC 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 another existing entity? Learn more about LLC name requirements, considerations, and how to find out if the LLC business name is available.

When forming an LLC business structure, the Articles of Organization, which is called the Articles of Formation or Certificate of Formation in some states, is the formation 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. entity name LLC name availability  

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 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 elements 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. You can 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 with the Secretary of State, if you aren’t ready to file the LLC.  Depending on the state, a name reservation will last 30-120 days and cost $10-$25.

Another option available in many states is 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. 

When forming an LLC, the Articles of 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.

The only time you would pay to register an LLC name is if you weren’t ready to form the LLC, but wanted to secure a name. All states allow for the reservation of an LLC name and will charge from $10 – $25 to reserve the name for up to 120 days, depending on the state. 

The cost to form an LLC varies by state and filing the Articles of Organization (or Certificate of Organization or Certificate of Formation in some states) can range between $40 and $500.

When registering an LLC or Corporation, the reservation of name is made at the time of filing.

Should a different name want to be registered a DBA (referred to as a Doing Business As, Assumed Name or Fictitious Business Name) can be registered as well. A business may want to do this when they want to operate under a different legal name than they registered, such as operating multiple businesses under the entity umbrella or adding a new product or service.

Most LLCs and corporations will register their DBA name with the Secretary of State or other state entity that is in charge of handling entity registrations. Before filing, a name search will be needed as each name will need to be unique. 

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