LLC Name Availability

States require new limited liability companies to have a distinct name that is not similar to another entity. There are several ways to check an LLC's name availability, including:

Until you have officially registered your business name and been approved in your state, your preferred name can still be taken by someone else. Check with your state's filing office for name requirements regarding LLCs, corporations, or limited partnerships depending on the type of business you wish to establish.

Once you have exhausted all of the above search options, conduct a business name search through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Checking this database can help you avoid infringement claims or violation of trademark laws. If you have already chosen a business name that infringes on someone's trademark rights, you could face a lawsuit. Remember that most small businesses do not need to file for federal trademark protection, but you should still check the federal database to assist you in coming up with a distinct business name.

Tips on Checking a Business Name

When searching for your preferred business name, be as specific as possible. Changing the name's punctuation or even the spacing of its letters can alter your results, giving you a false search. If the name you like is already in use, don't try to register it anyway. You'll only incur additional expenses to correct the filing.

Above all, use multiple search methods when checking your LLC business name. If you are satisfied that the name is distinct in your industry, you can move forward with establishing the LLC. On the other hand, if there's evidence that another business has a similar name, proceed with caution. At this point, it's best to come up with a different name rather than create one that doesn't stand out.

WHOIS Database

WHOIS is a domain database featuring all registered domains. As such, it's frequently used for legal purposes. Searching the WHOIS database can help you determine if your business domain name is available before you register the name. It can also help identify potential trademark infringement.

The WHOIS database also helps combat fraud or spam because database administrators can track users posting illegal content. Domains registered on WHOIS are protected from anyone trying to market or spam business owners, so you don't have to worry about being hit with automated queries just from being listed in the system.

To see if your domain is available, enter the information into the search field on the WHOIS homepage. You can then view results related to domain name availability, creation, ownership, and expiration details.

WHOIS Data Accuracy

According to the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), providing false data or refusing to update information in the WHOIS database can result in having a domain suspended or canceled. Users can also file complaints if they discover a domain name is incomplete or incorrect. Since registrars are constantly verifying and correcting data, you can be assured by the database's accuracy.

Reserving an LLC Name

Once you've determined an LLC name is available for use, you may want to reserve it before filing the formation documents. Reserving a name is free but the amount of time you can reserve it for depends on the type of business. You can also cancel or withdraw a name reservation before the end of the reservation period.

Most name reservations can be renewed during the final 30-day reservation period, but check with your state to ensure you understand the process and which forms you need to extend a reservation. In most cases, there is no limit on how many times you can reserve an LLC name.

“Doing Business As”

Foreign businesses may choose a “doing business as” or “DBA” business name. Domestic LLCs do not have this option. Unless a foreign company has a DBA name when registering domestically, it may be rejected by the state. Foreign entities with DBA designations cannot file documents online, but must instead submit paper copies.

Alternate Names

In some cases, a business may want to operate under a different name, requiring the owner to register an alternate name. You can only register an alternate name after you have already established the business in your state.

Whether you are just starting to brainstorm your business idea or you're ready to search an LLC's name availability, consulting an attorney can ensure you're on the right track. Post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace for help establishing your LLC.