How to Search LLC Names

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Search LLC Names

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

When you start a new limited liability company (LLC), you need to choose a name for it. That name can impact the business's success, so it is important to choose carefully. People forming LLCs also need to verify that the name they want to use is not already in use by another business operating in the same area. Follow these steps to search LLC names with your state's Secretary of State, Department of State, or other business authority and to ensure a potential business name is not a registered trademark.

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1. Research your state's LLC naming requirements.

Before you start your LLC name search, determine the requirements for the state(s) where you intend to conduct business by inquiring with the state's business registration authority.

In many states, business owners register their LLCs' names at the state level. In other states, you may also need to perform a county-specific search of LLC names. Knowing the scope of your search at the outset can help you confirm your LLC name search is thorough.

2. Use available online search engines and state-provided resources.

Most states' business registration authorities maintain user-friendly online search tools for researching LLC and other business names. Enter your desired business name into the name availability search engines for each state where you intend to register your LLC. If a state requires name registration at the county level, work with individual counties as necessary. In states without online name availability search tools, work directly with the Secretary of State or other business authority to conduct name record searches.

As you search, look up both the exact name you want to use as well as variations of it. This can protect you from later claims that your chosen name was too similar to another business's name. If your results show that another business has the same or a substantially similar name, choose a new name for your LLC and search that name too. If you do not receive any results from your search, your chosen business name is likely available, meaning you can proceed with reserving the name or registering your LLC.

3. Check registered trademarks.

You can also check your intended name for your new LLC against the list of business names that are registered trademarks, maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This step can help you avoid potential trademark infringement issues. Use the Trademark Electronic Search System on the USPTO's website to review pending trademark applications and current trademark registrations.

When you choose an online service provider to help form your new LLC, you can search LLC names as part of the process. Another option is hiring a business law attorney licensed in the state where you intend to open your new business. Searching LLC names up front with professional legal assistance can give you peace of mind, allowing you to move forward with confidence as you launch your new business venture.

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.