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.
You want to make sure that your company's business name doesn't infringe on any existing trademarks or copyrights and that it complies with state requirements for how to name your LLC.
This article will go over how to name your business according to some common rules, how different states have different requirements, and how to find out if the name you've chosen has been taken by someone else already.
Legal Guidelines for Naming LLCs
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 limited liability company in.
Most states have certain words that can be included in your LLC name, which are usually restricted to proper nouns and generic terms.
Some states have restrictions on the length of the business name, 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 business name should be distinguishable from all other entities by its 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 LLC 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. In this case, an additional fee will be charged during the filing process with appropriate documentation proving that you hold all authorizations needed to complete limited liability companies' name registration procedures.
- 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 name either.
Coming up with a Unique LLC Name
Small business owners need to pay close attention and avoid using the same name, or a name too similar to the one other limited liability companies are already using.
To perform a name availability check, 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 it's 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.
You have to ensure that your LLC's full legal business name doesn't infringe upon any intellectual property rights and trademarks.
You might be able to use your LLC name as your company's official legal 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 and registering your LLC's name 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 business name across all states.
Making Your LLC Name Customer-Friendly
Don't forget that your online presence also has to be unique and memorable. Your LLC name shouldn't be deceptive and misguiding.
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 a matching domain name for your business' name 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 LLC name altogether because some domain names are already taken by some other business entity even though the LLC isn't registered in your state.
Reserving an LLC Name
If you still aren't ready to take the plunge with your new LLC, or you want to have everything sorted out before registering, you can reserve an LLC name with your state office.
A business owner can reserve an entity name by filing a name reservation application and paying the applicable fee associated with it.
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 LLC 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.
Should I Name My LLC after Myself?
Although LLC names can contain the personal names of their owners (especially professional LLCs run by licensed professionals), it is not advisable to do that. Naming an LLC after yourself in most cases is considered unoriginal, and it can be limiting in the long run, especially if you plan to expand your business.
However, suppose you really want to go ahead with this naming convention in spite of the risks involved. In that case, we strongly recommend that you conduct some preliminary research and seek business advice.
Does an LLC Mean You Own the Name?
Potentially, yes. However, unless you trademark your company name, you risk having business owners in other states give their companies the same LLC name. Trademark, on the other hand, protects you against this.
Should I Get a Trademark or LLC First?
It is recommended that an LLC starts with the trademark application the moment it files its formation documents. That is the only way to be sure there won't be other companies who can take your LLC name before you even launch the campaigns.
How Can I Apply for an LLC Name Reservation?
Business entities that choose LLC business structure need to apply for a name reservation through their Secretary of State's office. Depending on the state, a limited liability company has to pay a reservation fee and possibly file additional paperwork.
Should I Put LLC in My Logo?
You can include the abbreviation LLC in your logo, but 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, LLC can have a DBA name. However, the DBA name must be different from the LLC name. For example, an LLC's business name can be "ABC LLC." but it cannot have a DBA business name of "ABC LLC" at the same time.
In most states, for your company to operate under another name other than the LLC's legal name, it must be registered as a DBA. Some jurisdictions require that you register a DBA with your local city or county don't require DBA registration whatsoever.
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 the original name of your LLC to a new name usually takes up to a few business days. The process might take longer in some states, but this is the standard waiting period in most states.
How Much Does It Cost to Change the LLC Name?
The fees for LLC name change vary by state, but they mostly range between $20 to $200.
Does an LLC Need a Fictitious Business Name?
Your LLC doesn't necessarily need a fictitious name if you're not planning to do business under a name other than the LLC's registered legal name.
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").
It is vital to seek legal advice if you are not sure what you need to do.
If it's your first time starting an LLC, know that there are many steps involved in naming and filing the paperwork for this type of company.
You may want to consider consulting with a law firm specializing in business law before proceeding on your own or hiring someone else to help complete these tasks.