Can an LLC Use an "Inc." Designation?

By Michelle Kaminsky, J.D.

Can an LLC Use an "Inc." Designation?

By Michelle Kaminsky, J.D.

You have many options when naming a limited liability company (LLC)—you may choose to include your name or your product, or you may invent an entirely new word all your own. What you cannot do, however, is include the word "Incorporated" or its abbreviation "Inc." in the name of an LLC's name.

Businesswoman with short hair types looks at laptop while filling out form

While every state has its own rules regarding LLC formation, no state allows an LLC to imply it is incorporated. LLCs and corporations are, in fact, different business entities, so it is understandable that states don't want misleading names.

Note that although you may choose to have your LLC taxed as a corporation, its legal structure still remains that of an LLC.

Required Words in LLC Names

The next question you may have is whether you must include "LLC" or "Limited Liability Company" in the name. Again, state law varies slightly on many LLC rules, but all states require that LLCs clearly show their LLC status.

Some states may allow the use of "Limited Company" or simply "Limited" instead of the full term or abbreviation, so you will have to consult your state law.

Distinguishable Name

All states also require that an LLC's name be distinguishable from the names of all other business entities that are on record with the state. This would include corporations, limited partnerships, and other LLCs the state has approved to conduct business. If your LLC's name is not sufficiently distinguishable, the state could reject your LLC forms.

To help you comply with this requirement, most states provide an online searchable database of registered business names through which you can check the availability of your chosen name.

More Word Restrictions

LLC laws typically disallow the use of certain words in an LLC's name that denote a specialized service or industry. The most commonly restricted words surround the fields of insurance, finance, accounting, engineering, and the law.

Some states keep a rather lengthy list of prohibited words. Among those prohibited in New York LLC names, for example, are "academy," "history," "labor," "Olympiad," and "urban development."

DBAs

You may operate your business under a different name than the one legally registered as an LLC. In this case, you will have to file a "doing business as," or DBA, which does not need to include "LLC" or "Limited Liability Company" in its name.

Potential Trademark Infringement

Just because the state approves an LLC name does not mean the name is legally protected from competing claims. In other words, all business names, including those of LLCs, are subject to scrutiny under federal and state trademark and service mark law. If your LLC's name infringes on the trademark of another person or business, the LLC may receive notice to stop using the name.

Accordingly, when choosing an LLC name, you might also consider searching the USPTO trademark database to ensure that your name is unique and that it's not infringing on anyone else's trademark.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.