How to Name Your LLC? (2024 Updated Guide)

Jon Morgan
Published by Jon Morgan | Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Last updated: April 14, 2024
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Naming your LLC is a very important step in business ownership. It may seem like a no-brainer, but there are many nuances to how you should go about naming your business, so it's important that you do things correctly.

We'll use our experience of working with various businesses, tax law knowledge, and other expertise to go over how to name your business according to common rules.

We'll also explain how different states have different requirements and how to find out if the name you've chosen has been taken by someone else already.

Quick Summary

  • Naming your LLC correctly is essential for legal compliance and brand identity, ensuring your business stands out in the market.
  • Reserving your LLC name can provide peace of mind during the registration process.
  • Considering that Lending Tree reports a 20.8% failure rate for US businesses within their first year, selecting a strong and distinctive name for your LLC is a critical step in laying the foundation for long-term success.
  • In my opinion, ensuring your LLC name is customer-friendly and aligns with your brand identity is crucial for long-term success.


A list of legal guidelines for naming LLC

To have a legal business name, you will have to be compliant with the state law of the particular country you chose to form your LLC in.

Drawing from experience when helping my clients establish businesses, ensuring your LLC's name complies with state laws is crucial.

From our experience, most states have certain words that can be included in your business name, which are usually restricted to proper nouns and generic terms.

Some states have restrictions on the length of the legal name of your LLC, while others require certain punctuation or symbols to appear in it.

A new business entity will have to respect the following guidelines:

  • You must include the words limited liability company or its abbreviation (LLC or LLC) or limited company (Ltd.).
  • You can not include words that are likely to cause confusion with other businesses already existing in the state, such as geographical names and surnames of living people, along with their first name initials.
  • The LLC's business name should be distinguishable from all other entities by the spelling or abbreviations used within your state's records system. The same applies to limited liability companies that have been previously incorporated in another one. In this case, you will need written consent from the previous entity, allowing you to use an identical name for registration purposes.
  • You can't use restricted words as part of your limited liability company name under any circumstances.
  • These include words like "insurance", "university", "corporation", etc. A limited liability company is only allowed to include restricted words in its business name given that it has obtained prior permission from the state authorities and paid required fees for LLC name registration purposes.
  • Prohibited words that can be associated with a government agency (Federal, State Department, Secretary, Bureau, Commission, etc.) can't be used in an LLC's legal name either.

Coming up with Unique LLC Names

Given that the US Small Business Administration reports 1.4 million new establishments opened between March 2021 and March 2022, a small business owner needs to pay close attention to avoid using the same name or a name too similar to those already in use, highlighting the importance of uniqueness in your LLC's naming process [1].

To perform a business name search, you will need to search for the exact name you've selected in all of the state's corporation & tax law filings, LLCs' records, and fictitious business names.

You can start with the most obvious search step: browsing the web to see if the desired name is already in use. That method, however, isn't always the most reliable.

For this reason, you will need to visit the website of your state's filing agency (usually the Secretary of State) and use their online tool to perform the search. Such databases typically contain a detailed list of all business entities operating within the state.

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Trademark Policies

Signature using magnifying glass

Navigating trademark regulations can be tricky; my client's LLC faced challenges in ensuring the name didn't overlap with existing trademarks.

You might be able to use your name as your company's official name if you register it with the Secretary of State.

That, however, doesn't give you the authority to utilize the name as your brand name to sell products or services.

If someone else has your name trademarked, you'll be unable to use it for anything beyond financial and legal matters.

For example, if a trademark owner has already registered "Intel Analytics," then it is not possible for an entrepreneur to receive permission to transact business and market services under just "Intel."

Keep in mind that trademarking vs LLC name registration are not the same. You can register your LLC under one name and trademark your brand name that is entirely different from your LLC name.

You can register your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and it will protect your company's name across all states.

Making Your LLC Names Customer-Friendly

From my experience, an easily recognizable online presence is key for customer engagement and brand loyalty.

It's important that you should avoid using acronyms or abbreviations in your business' branding strategy, as it may cause confusion among the customers later down the line.

Purchasing matching domain names for your business names is a must.

You can check if the web domain is available with any availability checker (Domain Name Search or GoDaddy) that will help you find out whether other websites already take the domain name you've chosen or not.

In some instances, you might have to choose another name for your LLC altogether because some matching domain names are already taken by some other business entity even though the LLC isn't registered in your state.

Reserving LLC Names

Reserving your LLC name can offer peace of mind during the planning stages; I advise my clients to opt for this step to secure their desired name before proceeding with registration.

A legal owner can reserve an entity name by filing a name reservation application and paying the applicable fee associated with it [2].

Once you receive approval, you will be able to use this entity name within your state during the next period without having to complete full registration paperwork for the new entity formation process until someone else tries to register that same entity type in your particular jurisdiction.

The period your proposed name is put on hold varies from state to state, but in most cases, it goes up to 120 days. Some states even allow reservation renewal at an additional fee.

International Considerations

When naming your LLC, it's crucial to think beyond borders. While a name may resonate well locally, it might inadvertently offend or confuse audiences in other countries.

Conducting thorough research on cultural nuances and trademark regulations in target markets can prevent costly missteps. For example, a name that sounds innocuous in one language may carry negative connotations in another.

Using international trademark databases and seeking legal advice specialized in international business law can provide invaluable guidance in navigating these complexities, ensuring your LLC's name translates seamlessly across borders and resonates positively with diverse audiences.

FAQs

Should I Name My LLC after Myself?

Naming an LLC after oneself is permissible, especially for professional LLCs, but generally not recommended due to potential limitations and lack of originality. If opting for this route, conducting thorough preliminary research and seeking professional business advice is strongly advised.

Does an LLC Mean You Own the Name?

Owning an LLC does not guarantee exclusive rights to the name unless it is trademarked. Without a trademark, other businesses in different states may legally use the same name.

Should I Get a Trademark or LLC First?

It is advisable to begin the trademark application process concurrently with the filing of LLC formation documents. This approach ensures protection of the trade name before initiating business campaigns and operations.

How Can I Apply for an LLC Name Reservation?

To reserve an LLC name, apply through the Secretary of State's office in your state, which may require a fee and additional paperwork. The process varies depending on state regulations.

Should I Put LLC in My Logo?

Yes, you can include the abbreviation LLC in your logo, although you don't have to. In fact, logos should be as short and memorable as possible, so adding any other words might make it look bad.

Can an LLC Have a Dba Name?

Yes, an LLC can have a DBA (Doing Business As) name, but it must differ from the LLC's official name. Registration of the DBA is necessary in most states and may vary by local city or county regulations.

Read More: How Many DBAs Can an LLC Have

How Hard Is It to Change the Name of My LLC?

It is really easy to change LLC's name, but you want to have the name of your new company on the other document that is relevant for the business. The process starts with an amendment you have to make in your Articles of Organization. Keep in mind that your business license and bank accounts also need to have the new company name displayed on the official record. You will also need to inform the state agencies (especially the IRS) about the change.

How Long Does It Take to Change the LLC Name?

Changing an LLC's name typically takes a few business days, although the duration can vary by state. This is the standard waiting period in most jurisdictions.

How Much Does It Cost to Change the LLC Name?

The cost to change an LLC's name varies by state, typically ranging from $20 to $200.

Does an LLC Need a Fictitious Business Name?

No, an LLC does not require a fictitious business name unless it plans to conduct business under a different name than its registered one.

What Is the Difference between a Fictitious Name and a DBA?

There is no difference between a fictitious name and a DBA ("doing business as").

How to Make LLC Name Social Media-friendly?

You can make the LLC name social media-friendly by ensuring it's memorable and distinguishable. Look around social media and check for existing company names to ensure your LLC isn't too similar to them. It's ideal to start your business name with a hard consonant or using alliteration to ensure its memorability.

References:

  1. https://advocacy.sba.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2023-Small-Business-Economic-Profile-US.pdf
  2. https://pennstatelaw.psu.edu/_file/aglaw/Step_by_Step_Guide.pdf

About The Author

Co-Founder & Chief Editor
Jon Morgan, MBA, LLM, has over ten years of experience growing startups and currently serves as CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter. Educated at UC Davis and Harvard, he offers deeply informed guidance. Beyond work, he enjoys spending time with family, his poodle Sophie, and learning Spanish.
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Growth & Transition Advisor
LJ Viveros has 40 years of experience in founding and scaling businesses, including a significant sale to Logitech. He has led Market Solutions LLC since 1999, focusing on strategic transitions for global brands. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Communications, LJ is also a distinguished Matsushita Executive alumnus.
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