Performing a WA LLC search is one of the first steps you should take before deciding on a name for your new LLC in the state of Washington. Even before you start searching, you should conduct research to be sure the name you like is easy to search and find by clients, as well as suited to the venture in which you will do business. 

All LLCs in Washington must have unique names that follow requirements set forth by the state. One of the naming rules is that the LLC name must include “limited liability company” or one of the abbreviations: LLC or L.L.C.

Certain words are restricted for use in a business name and will require some additional paperwork. The LLC may need to have a licensed person, such as a lawyer or doctor, be part of the company. Some of these words include:

  • Bank
  • University
  • Attorney

Along with the restricted words, the state also has words that are prohibited from use in the name of an LLC. They are prohibited because they could cause confusion with a state or federal agency. These may include:

  • Secret Service
  • FBI
  • Treasury

Since an LLC isn't a corporation, the name of your LLC can't include the words “corporation” or “incorporated,” or any abbreviations of those words. Another requirement for an LLC name is distinguishability, which means it must be unique and different from any other business already registered in the state of Washington. Certain minor changes will not make a business name distinguishable. For example, changing the grammar will not create distinguishability, nor will changing the identifiers in a business name, called designators.

  • Designators might include LLC, Inc., L.L.C., or Corp
  • Possessive vs. plural vs. singular grammar
  • Using and vs. the ampersand symbol
  • Spelling out numbers vs. using the symbols
  • Adding or changing the punctuation
  • Using “a” vs. “an” vs. “the”

These examples would not be considered distinguishable from one another:

  • 3 Brothers Consulting LLC vs. Three Brothers Consulting LLC
  • Jones Investments Inc. vs. Jones Investments, LLC
  • Larry, Moe, & Curly Services vs. Larry-Moe-Curly Services
  • Orange Orchard vs. Orange Orchards
  • Day & Night, LLC vs. Day and Night, LLC
  • The Print Shop, LLC vs. A Print Shop, LLC 

Another important step in the process of registering your business name is performing a search on the Washington state website to make sure the name isn't already registered. Before you start the registration process, check to make sure the domain name is available so that you can reserve it. Even if creating a website isn't in your immediate business plan, you may want to plan on buying the domain name so someone else can't get it.

Washington SOS Business Entity Search

After you have a better understanding of the requirements for naming an LLC in the state, you can then begin your search on the business entity search tool, found on the Secretary of State website. This site helps inform business owners and entrepreneurs about the ways they can use the search tool to find business entities in Washington. Using this online functionality is helpful if you need to find business purchase documents, look up general business entity information, or check the name availability a business name you want to register. 

You can perform a basic inquiry with the unified business identifier (UBI) or the name of the business entity. A more advanced search option is available as well, which uses different criteria to lessen the number of search results. 

Search by Entity Name

The first step in searching for an existing business entity is to visit the Washington Corporations search page. In order to search for LLC names that are similar to yours, input the name you want to use in the box marked “Organization Name” and press search. One helpful tip is to change the default option to “Name Starts With” to filter your search results. Don't include any punctuation or business designators, such as LLC or L.L.C. in your search. The search bar is not case sensitive, so don't worry about capitalization.

Perform a more thorough search by entering just a few words of the name you want. This will give you a list of results that could be similar to your business name. For example, if you wanted to name your business “Jack's Apple Farm LLC,” try searching “Jack” and “Apple.”

If you need help with a WA LLC search, 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.