Performing an LLC Name Search

Before deciding on a business name, it's important to conduct an LLC name search to make sure your preferred name isn't already taken. If you come across a similar name during your search, choose a different option so you aren't infringing on someone else's copyright. It's also essential in the digital age to search for your LLC business name online to make sure you can obtain a coinciding domain name.

Brainstorming LLC Name Ideas

When brainstorming a business name, there are some key factors to consider:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are you selling/providing?
  • How will prospective customers find you?

If your LLC name is hard to spell, too hip, too old-fashioned, or too long, customers may have a tough time finding it.

After narrowing down your favorite ideas, ask a few friends and family which name they prefer. Make sure that the name fits your brand's image and makes sense for the types of products or services you provide.

Performing an LLC Name Search

Whether you plan to start an LLC, limited partnership, or corporation, you will need to search the database of your state's filing office to make sure the name is available to use. If your preferred name is already taken or is too similar to another business name in your state, go back to the drawing board and come up with something else.

You can also search your ideal business name online using your favorite search engine. Any similar names will appear in the search results. Keep in mind, however, that some people register fictitious business names without putting the name online or officially registering the business as an LLC. Check your county or state's fictitious name database as part of your search. While it's not illegal to use a name that's already been filed as a fictitious business, you should still reconsider.

Even if the name you wish to use isn't available, you can consider certain workarounds as long as it doesn't infringe on existing trademarks. For example, you could file your LLC under a different name and then file for a “doing business as” name if the option is available.

Once you've exhausted all other search options, check the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. Even though you cannot register LLCs on the federal level, checking this federal database can help you avoid infringement claims related to trademark rights. If you fail to check the USPTO database and your business name does infringe on someone else's rights, you may be sued. Those who willfully infringe on another's rights face steep penalties, so always check multiple databases to protect yourself.

One thing to keep in mind when checking databases is that most states only consider businesses in good standing. This means that if a business is listed as “revoked,” you may be able to use the name.

LLC Naming Restrictions

There are certain restrictions in place when it comes to naming your LLC business. Simply changing a name's punctuation or word spacing does not make it distinct enough to use. Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • “And” and the ampersand symbol “&” are considered the same.
  • Singular, plural, and possessive forms of a name are considered the same.
  • “Three,” “3,” and “III” are the same.
  • Abbreviations are treated as full words.
  • Using “the,” “a,” or “an” differently doesn't make a name distinct.
  • Entity suffixes do not count toward distinction, meaning that Acme, LLC is the same as Acme, Inc.

Rebranding

It's not unusual for companies to rebrand themselves. Rebranding efforts may come after a major business scandal or simply because the original name wasn't good enough. For example, one common mistake many business owners make is naming their business after themselves. Doing so gives the impression that the business only involves the one person, which can make the company seem limited in its scope.

Since rebranding involves a lot of effort and money, try to avoid pigeonholing yourself with your LLC name from the start. This means considering how your business might expand over the years. Will the name you choose fit if you go regional? National? Global? What if you expand your product line but you've named the business after a single product? While it's true that companies tend to have more money when they consider rebranding efforts, it's still best to avoid it by choosing a good name from the start.

Ensure you get your business off on the right foot by performing a thorough LLC name search. Post your legal need to UpCounsel's marketplace for professional assistance from top attorneys.