Note: The state has updated and redesigned their website since the recording of this LLC name search video, however, the information and steps are still similar. Thank you for your understanding.
The following information is provided for educational purposes only and in no way constitutes legal, tax, or financial advice. For legal, tax, or financial advice specific to your business needs, we encourage you to consult with a licensed attorney and/or CPA in your State. The following information is copyright protected. No part of this lesson may be redistributed, copied, modified or adapted without prior written consent of the author. In this video, we are going to teach you how to research and choose your desired LLC name. The purpose of this video is to help you: avoid infringing upon someone else’s name rights, to help you differentiate your business name from existing entities, to and make sure your desired LLC name is available for use. In order to make sure your desired LLC name is available for use, you will need to search it against the existing organized entities on the State’s online database. We will first walk you through some requirements and restrictions and then later we will show you how to perform your search. Name Requirements. Your LLC name must end with the words “Limited Liability Company”, or the abbreviations “L.L.C.” or “LLC”. Using the abbreviation “LLC” is the most common. For example, Joe wants to start a company by the name “Joe’s Landscaping Services”. Since he is forming an LLC, he must file under the name “Joe’s Landscaping Services, LLC”. Again, using the abbreviation “LLC” (or the full word “Limited Liability Company”) is a requirement when forming an LLC. Name Restrictions. Your LLC name cannot imply that it is a corporation. You are not allowed to use the words “Corporation” or “Incorporated”, or the abbreviations “Corp.” or “Inc.” anywhere in your LLC name. Let’s look at our example again. Since Joe wants to form an LLC, he cannot call his company “Joe’s Landscaping Services, Inc., LLC” or “Joe’s Landscaping Services Incorporated, LLC”. Your desired LLC name must also be “distinguishable”. This means it cannot be too similar to the names of existing organized entities that are found in the results during the search of the database. We will now illustrate several examples of distinguishability, and we will provide examples you may see while performing your search. Differences in designators, which are the identifiers at the end of a business name, do not create distinguishability. Examples of designators would be “Inc.” or “Corp.” (for Corporations) and “LLC” or “L.L.C” (for Limited Liability Companies). There are other designators as well, but these are the most commonly used. For example, your desired LLC name is “Smith Investments, LLC”, but during the search of the database Let’s say you found the business under the name “Smith Investments, Inc.” In this example, your desired LLC name would not be available for use. You would have to think of an alternative name that is unique and different. An example would be “Smith Financial Group, LLC”. Grammatical Differences. The following do not create distinguishability: differences and variables in singular, plural, possessive forms of a word. For example, your desired LLC name is “Apple Farm, LLC”. Let’s just say during the search you found the business under the name “Apple Farms, LLC”, or Let’s say you also found a business under “Apple’s Farm, LLC” (with an apostrophe “s”). Both of these names, although slightly different, are too similar and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An example of an alternative name would be “Bob’s Apple Orchard, LLC”. The following do not create distinguishability: differences in articles such as “A”, “An”, or “The”. For example, your desired LLC name is “Print Shop, LLC”. Let’s just say that during the search of the database you found a business called the “The Print Shop, LLC”, or you found a business called “A Print Shop, LLC”. Again, although they seem different, these names are all the same in the eyes of the State, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An alternative name would be “Printing Solutions, LLC”. The following also do not create distinguishability: the use of conjunctions such as “And”, “Or”, and the ampersand symbol. Let’s say your desired LLC name is “Night & Day, LLC” with the ampersand symbol (&). But during your search, you find a “Night and Day, LLC”, or you found a “Night Day LLC”. Again, both of these examples are too similar, and your desired LLC name is not distinguishable and therefore not available for use. An example of an alternative name would be “Moon and Sunshine, LLC”. The following also do not create distinguishability: the use of certain punctuation such as hyphens, slashes, periods, commas, etcetera. Let’s say your desired LLC name is “Peter Paul & Mary Studios, LLC”, but during your search you found “Peter-Paul-Mary Studios, Incorporated”, or you found a “Peter, Paul, and Mary Studios, Incorporated”. Again, both of these examples are too similar, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An alternative example would be “PPM Productions, LLC”. Alphanumeric: differences in numerical, or written numbers does not create distinguishability. For example, Let’s say your desired LLC name is “Three Teachers Consulting, LLC” (with a number “three” spelled out), but during your search of the database you found a company called “3 Teachers Consulting, LLC” (with the number “3”). Again, these are deceptively similar; the State does not look at these as any different, and therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An alternative example would be “A Few Good Teachers Consulting, LLC”. Deceptively Similar. Names that are too similar to existing organized entities also do not create distinguishability. For example, your desired LLC name is “Speedy Delivery Services, LLC”, but during your search, Let’s say you find a “Speed Delivery Services, LLC”, or you find a “Super Speedy Delivery Services, LLC”. Again, these names are too similar, therefore your desired LLC name would not be available for use. An example of an alternative name would be “At Your Door Quick, LLC”. Takeaways. As you can see, just filing the paperwork with your desired LLC name is not as straightforward as you may have originally thought. The most important takeaways from showing you all these examples are as follows: it’s important to make sure your name is truly unique and not too similar to the names of existing organized entities; if your desired LLC name is unavailable for use, either by its exact match already being used, or by it being too similar to an existing name, we recommend using some creativity and coming up with a variation of your original LLC name, so that the name is now unique and is “distinguishable”, and stands apart from other businesses. Some additional tips to think of when creating your LLC name are: Make your LLC name easy to spell. You want to make sure people can find you when they’re looking for you. Make your LLC name short. Shorter names are easier for people to remember. Make your LLC name have a positive connotation. Leave people with a good feeling when they hear about your business. You are now ready to search your desired LLC name against the State’s online database. We showed you a number of examples where the desired LLC names were not available for use, but don’t worry. In the next part of this video, we will provide plenty of examples of names that are available for use, so that you can best understand the database and the results that you see. Let’s head over to the State’s online database. The link below this video will take you there. Here we are at the State’s website. Again, the link below the video will take you here. Under “Division” (where it says “Corporations”), that’s fine, this searches all entities (Corporations, LLCs, etcetera). For some reason, the State just refers to everything as Corporations. Under “Search Type”, the default “Name Starting With” is fine. Before we begin our searches, there’s a few things I want to mention to you regarding the North Carolina database. Companies in the North Carolina database will show various statuses when doing your search which will help you determine your LLC’s name availability. There are multiple statuses in the database, including the following: “Administratively Dissolved”, “Auto Dissolved”, “Converted”, “Current-Active”, “Dissolved”, “Merged”, “Multiple”, “Reserved Name”, “Revoked”, “Suspended”, and “Withdrawn”. The good news is that you don’t have to memorize this list. If your desired name comes up with any of these statuses, it is not available for use. Don’t worry, this will make more sense in a moment when we show you how to search the database. When searching, enter your desired LLC name without the designator “LLC” or “L.L.C.”. Capitalization is not important, so you can start your name in all lowercase, or all uppercase, or any variation. Let’s search the online database now to show you how this works. It may be easier to watch us perform the name search the 1st time, then you can re-visit this part of the video when you do your own search. Let’s first look at some examples of names that are available. Let’s say your desired LLC name is “Duke Devils, LLC”. Let’s head over the database and let’s first search it broadly via just the word “Duke”, and then after that we’ll search “Duke Devil”. Let’s head over to the database. Again, leave the drop downs in their default setting, and let’s enter “Duke” into the name field and click “Search”. What this does is it brings up all entities in the database that start with the word “Duke”. All right, let’s scroll through this list and see if we see anything similar to “Duke Devil” or “Duke Devils”. You’ll see the list is in alphabetical order. We have “Duke”, and then words that begin with “A”, “B”, “C”, and let’s get down to “D”. So we have “Duke Denmark”, “Duke “Development”, “Duke Development” again, “Duke DFC”. Okay, nothing that looks like “Duke Devil” or “Duke Devils”. This is a good sign, and now let’s just double-check that, and let’s do a more refined search. Let’s go back up to the top and click the “Search Again” button. In the Name Box, I’m going to enter “Duke Devil”, and then I’m going to click “Search”. Okay, no results found for “Duke Devil”. Again, this is a good sign. Since we found no existing names under “Duke Devil”, and when we searched “Duke” we didn’t even find anything similar, that means that this desired LLC name would be available for use. Let’s look at another example. Let’s say that your desired LLC name is “Pier Beers, LLC”. Let’s go over the database and let’s search “Pier”, and then let’s search “Pier Beers”. I’m going to click “Search Again”, and I’m going to enter “Pier” into the Name Box and click “Search”. Again the list is in alphabetical order: “Pier 12”, “16”, “Pier 1”, we have the numbers coming first. And then let’s scroll down a bit more. Okay, “Pier 9”, “Pieracle”, “Pier Auto”, “Pieroe Company”, (or “Pierce”, excuse me). Okay, it would actually fall if it were in this list. It would fall “Pier” – so between the “C” and the “Pier Auto” and “Pierce & Company”. Let’s just take another look down just to double-check. All right, this is a good sign. Let’s go ahead and hit “Search Again” just to double-check. Let’s enter “Pier Beers” and click “Search”. Oh, no results found (a good sign). Again, because we didn’t find any existing companies that were similar or identical to “Pier” or “Pier Beers”, that means the desired LLC name is available for use. Let’s look at a few examples of names that are unavailable. Let’s say the desired LLC name is “Tech Tools, LLC”. Let’s go and search the database for “Tech” and then “Tech Tool”. Let’s go ahead and hit “Search Again”. Let’s enter “Tech” and click “Search”. All right, under “Tech Tools” this is the numbers “A”, “B”, “C”, actually I’m going to go all the way down (this is quite a long list). Alright, so I’m on the “I” and we still haven’t gotten there. You see here I’m going to click on the next page at the bottom. Okay, this is a pretty long list actually. let’s go down (“Tech Marketing), and okay, I think we have to go to the next page. Okay yes, that is “T-e-c-n” (“T-e-c-h-n”, excuse me). Alright, I’m going to click “Next Page” again, and let’s get down to the “T’s”. So sometimes, depending on your desired LLC name, there may be 4 names that show up (or 400), so do take your time and and take a look through the list, making sure that there’s nothing similar to your desired LLC name. So we’re looking for the “T” right ( “Technical”). Let’s see, we got to go down further (we’re still on “T-e-c-h-n”). I think we have to go 1 more page (wow). Anyway, so if you know what, this is a great example to actually segue into their search here. So, let’s say that your list just is so long when you do a broad search. Let’s go ahead and hit “Search Again”. And in this example, I’m going to do “Tech Tool” and then click “Search”. Much better. So, unfortunately in this case, we have an entity (“Tech-Tool, Incorporated”). This is a business corporation and it’s currently active. Although that this name is hyphenated and it’s a corporation, it is too similar to a desired LLC name. Again, because we found “Tech-Tool, Inc.”, our desired LLC name is not available because there’s an existing corporation. Let’s look at another example. Let’s say the desired LLC name is “Tomahawk Equities, LLC”. Let’s go and search the database for the word “Tomahawk”. I’m going to go up here and click “Search Again”. Let’s enter “Tomahawk” and click “Search”. All right, and let’s scroll down, and you can see in this case we don’t have to scroll pretty far because we have “Tomahawk Equities” right here, 2 LLCs, and this 1 here which doesn’t have a Secretary of State ID Number (you can see that that’s just a “Reserved Name”). The name and the actual entity is right here: “Tomahawk Equities, LLC”. This is a Limited Liability Company that we found in the database, and although it does say “Administratively Dissolved”, we recommend avoiding these names because they can oftentimes cause conflict. In this case, because we found “Tomahawk Equities, LLC”, our desired LLC name would not be available for use because there’s an identical business name in the database and it’s been administratively dissolved. You want to search your desired LLC name every way that you can think of to make sure it is truly unique and distinguishable. The good news is that you can search as many names and variations as you like and it will cost you nothing. This is an important step in forming your LLC, so take the time to ensure your name is unique and that it does not conflict with existing businesses. If you have any questions about the database, you can call the State at the phone number below this video. Once you find a name that is unique and distinguishable from existing businesses, you can then proceed to the next step. This now concludes the Name Research Lesson.
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