A North Carolina Secretary of State business search is a way for individuals to look up specific information on existing business entities in the state, as well as check the availability of a business name if they wish to form a new company.

LLC Name Requirements in North Carolina

To check the availability of a business name, you'll first search for it on the state's online database and compare it with existing business entities. To form an LLC, you'll have to consider the state requirements and restrictions on selecting an LLC name. Your LLC name has to end with the phrase “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.” or “LLC”. LLC is the most common abbreviation.

An LLC name can't imply that the entity is a corporation. The following words and abbreviations are prohibited from use anywhere in an LLC name: 

  • Corporation.
  • Incorporated.
  • Corp.
  • Inc.

Business names have to be distinguishable, so they can't be too similar to existing business names. 

If you have different designators (the identifiers found at the end of an entity name), that's not enough to make a name distinguishable. For example, “Apple Jack, Inc.” isn't distinguishable from “Apple Jack Corp.”

Differences in grammar don't make a name distinguishable. This includes variations such as singular versus plural and possessive forms. For instance, these two names aren't distinguishable: “A Pet Store” and “A Pet's Store.” 

Different articles (“A”  versus “An” or “The”) don't create distinguishability, so “A Vacuum Shop” isn't unique different from “The Vacuum Shop.”

Other items that don't create distinguishability include the following: 

  • Conjunctions (“or” and “and.”) 
  • Ampersand  versus spelling out “and.” 
  • Punctuation, such as periods, commas, hyphens, slashes, etc.
  • Numerical differences, such as spelling out numbers versus using digits.

If a business name is too “deceptively similar” to an existing entity name, it's not unique enough to use.

The key points in all of these restrictions and rules are the following: 

  • Your desired business name must be unique and not too similar to existing business names.
  • If you can't use your desired name, be creative and come up with a variation of the name that makes it distinguishable. You want a business name that stands out and won't be confused with existing names.

Additional tips for good LLC name creation include the following: 

  • Choose a name that's easy to spell. You want customers to easily find you, so don't make it hard by naming your business something that's difficult to spell. 
  • Choose a shorter LLC name over a longer, more complicated one. Short names are easier to remember. 
  • Choose a name with a positive connotation. You want customers to have a good impression and feeling about your business when they hear the name.

Name Search in North Carolina

A name availability search is typically done when an individual is forming a new LLC in the state. In contrast, a business entity search is usually done to get the following types of information about an existing business:

  • Its good-standing status. 
  • Whether it's a legally formed entity. 
  • Business address details. 
  • Registered agent contact details. 

To conduct a search by name, visit the Search page at the North Carolina Secretary of State's website. 

  1. Enter the business name you want information about in the menu field, and click “Search.” In the drop-down menu, you can select the search type.
  2. On the next page, you'll find the business you're searching for in the results. 
  3. Click the entity name for additional details.
  4. Next, you'll see a page that contains all information currently on file with the Secretary of State's office. If you have an account at the site and you're logged in, you can also purchase documents such as a Certificate of Existence.

When checking business name availability, you'll find entities with various statuses attached to their names. If any of the following statuses show up next to an existing business, you won't be able to use that name for your business: 

  • Administratively Dissolved. 
  • Auto Dissolved. 
  • Current-Active. 
  • Converted. 
  • Merged. 
  • Dissolved. 
  • Reserved Name.
  • Multiple. 
  • Revoked.
  • Suspended. 
  • Withdrawn.

It's simple to find public information using the state database, whether you want details about an existing business or you need to check the availability of a business name you wish to use.

If you need help with a business search in North Carolina or another state, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.