A company’s name sets it apart from competition and helps define the business’s identity. Coming up with a name for a limited liability company involves more than just brainstorming for an appropriate moniker. It also involves making sure you comply with state regulations for LLC naming and federal trademark rules.
State laws vary on naming requirements of LLCs. However, there are several common rules in all 50 states. States require that the name of the company indicate that it is an LLC. Consequently, “Limited Liability Company” or an abbreviation of those words must be included in the name of the LLC. Abbreviation rules vary by state. Some abbreviations include LLC, L.L.C., L.C., LC, Ltd., as well as Co. for company.
Some types of businesses cannot be formed as LLCs. These include banks and insurance companies, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Consequently, some states prohibit the use of the words “bank” and “insurance” in LLC names. States may also require that states do not include words that are obscene, falsely suggest associations with government entities, promote unlawful activity or are prohibited for business use by any state law.
After selecting a name for your business, you must make sure that it is not in use by other business in the state. Names must be also easily distinguishable from the names of other companies. Most states provide name search services. Most states offer online name search services for free. A name must not also infringe upon the federally-registered trademark of an existing business. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an online database of registered trademarks. The law may also protect unregistered trademarks. The Thomas Register has a free, online searchable database of company and product names that qualify as unregistered trademarks (see References).
If you want to operate your LLC using a name other than the name it was formed under, you can use a fictitious name or a “doing business as” (DBA) name. State regulations vary on DBA filing requirements. There may be a fee involved in a DBA name filing. If you want to completely change the name of your business, you must file an LLC amendment form to change the company’s name. There are fees associated with changing the LLC name. Consult the secretary of state’s office in your state for information on specific rules and fees associated with changing an LLC name.