A unique business name is important for branding, but it’s easy to get lost in all the Ohio business name rules.
This page will teach you how to look up your LLC name and make sure it’s available to use.
Ohio LLC name
If you file your Ohio LLC paperwork with a name that is already used by another Ohio business entity – or that doesn’t meet the Ohio name rules – your filing may be rejected.
The first step to checking if your LLC name passes is to make sure your name is not already taken by another business.
You can do this using the Business Entity Search. And you need to do this because two business entities in the state can’t have the same name or be too similar.
The second step is to make sure your LLC name follows the Ohio Secretary of State’s rules, which we’ve broken down below.
How do I search the Ohio business entity name database?
You can use the business entity search to search your business name against the existing business entities registered in Ohio.
Note: This tool is sometimes called the Ohio Business Name Search or the Ohio Business Entity Search. They both refer to the same website and get you the same search records.
Visit the Ohio Business Search page:
Ohio Secretary of State: Business Search
It’s simple: enter your desired LLC name in the search bar.
- Leave out “LLC”, “L.L.C.”, “Limited Liability Company”, etc., when doing your searches.
- Leave out any commas, periods, apostrophes, etc.
- You can search using uppercase or lowercase letters.
Tip: It’s best to enter only the main part of your desired Ohio LLC name in the search bar. For example, if your desired LLC name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, first do a search for the words “Riverwalk Studio”. And then do a search for “Riverwalk”. This helps make sure that you see everything that is potentially similar.
How to interpret the Ohio LLC search results
If the results show names that are not too similar to yours (meaning yours is distinguishable), then your Limited Liability Company name is available for use.
- Let’s keep using the example above. If your desired name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, and the only similar names you saw were “Riverwalk Rentals” and “Riverwalk Studio Starters”, then your name should be available.
If no results show up, that means your LLC name is unique and it should be available for use. To be safe, run your search again using only part of your LLC name (to double-check that there are no similar names).
- For example, search just the word “Riverwalk” instead of Riverwalk Studios.
If your exact LLC name appears in the list of search records, your LLC name is not available for use because another Ohio business entity is already using it.
If the results show a name that is very similar to yours, your LLC name may not be available for use.
- If your desired name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, and the search results show a “Riverwalk Studio”, then your name is not available.
What if my desired LLC name isn’t available?
If your name is not unique, you’ll need to come up with a variation or a different name for your LLC.
Tip: Wait until your LLC is approved before you apply for your LLC EIN Number or purchase any other marketing materials. This way you don’t spend money on business supplies you can’t use because your business name isn’t available.
Ohio Secretary of State Contact Information
You can call the Ohio Secretary of State to ask questions about whether your LLC name is available.
Representatives at the Ohio Secretary of State can help you use the Ohio Business Name Search. They can’t guarantee that your LLC name will be available when you file, however.
The Business Services Division phone number is 614-466-3910. Their hours are 8am to 5pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
Ohio Limited Liability Company Name Requirements
As per Section 1706.07 of the Ohio LLC Act, there are a few rules and requirements for naming an Ohio business entity that you need to know.
Do I have to use a comma in my LLC name?
No, you don’t have to. You can file your LLC name with or without a comma. Both versions are accepted by the Secretary of State.
For example: If your desired business name is Grandpa Joe’s, you can file it as:
- Grandpa Joe’s LLC
- Grandpa Joe’s, LLC
Or, instead of having “LLC” as your designator (ending), there are a few other options in Ohio.
What designators (endings) can I use in my LLC name?
Your Ohio LLC name must contain one of the following designators at the end:
- Limited Liability Company
Note: Most people choose “LLC”.
The following designators are not allowed
Your Ohio LLC can’t make itself sound like an Ohio Corporation or any other business entity besides an LLC.
The following words and designators can’t be used anywhere in your LLC name:
What words are not allowed in my Ohio LLC name?
Your Ohio LLC name can’t contain words and abbreviations that are restricted by law.
For example, you can’t make your LLC name sound like it’s a bank, part of the government or a government agency, or anything else that misleads the public.
You also can’t use words that are reserved for licensed professionals. These vary by state, but some common examples are accountants, architects, attorneys, dentists, and engineers.
For more information about restricted words for an Ohio business entity, please see this page: Ohio Secretary of State Guide to Name Availability.
Your Ohio business name must be distinguishable (unique)
When you use the Ohio Secretary of State Business Search, you will compare your desired LLC name to existing businesses in the state.
If your name is not unique, you’ll need to come up with a variation or a different business name.
Below are rules and examples of LLC names that are not distinguishable.
Differences in designators (endings) don’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is Tomato Juice Company LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the Ohio Business Name Search results:
- Tomato Juice Company, Inc.
- Tomato Juice Company, Corp.
- Tomato Juice Company, L.L.C.
Adding non-meaningful or filler words (the, a, an, and, &, or) won’t create distinguishability. In Ohio, this includes articles (a, an, the) and conjunctions (and, or).
If your desired LLC name is Flint Farms LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- The Flint Farms LLC
- A Flint Farm Inc.
- Flint & Farms Corp
Plural or Singular Words and Possessive Words
Adding a letter “s” to make a word plural or possessive doesn’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is Card’s Carnations LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Cards Carnations LLC
- Card Carnation Inc.
- Card Carnations, L.L.C.
Punctuation, Symbols, Spaces
Adding or removing punctuation, symbols and spaces doesn’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is Mount Logan Hiking Tours LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- MountLogan HikingTours Inc.
- Mount-Logan-Hiking-Tours Corp
- Mount Logan “Hiking Tours”, L.L.C.
Abbreviation vs Complete Name or Word
Using an abbreviation instead of a complete word (or vice versa) doesn’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is New York Pizza Bros. LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- NY Pizza Bros, L.C.
- NY Pizza Brothers, Ltd. Liability Co.
- New York Pizza Brothers Inc.
Business Search Tips for Abbreviations
If you want to use an abbreviation, or a word that has a commonly-used abbreviation, make sure you search for the abbreviation and the complete word when you use the Business Entity Search to check availability.
For example: If you wanted to use the word “February” in your business name, make sure you also search for the business name using “Feb” instead. Or if you wanted to use the abbreviation “OH” for Ohio, make sure you also search for “Ohio”.
Ways to Make Your Ohio Business Name Distinguishable
The following differences between business names do create distinguishability.
Numerals or Spelled Out Numbers
Using numerals (like 5 or 101) instead of spelling out the number (like “five” or “one hundred and one”) creates distinguishability. The same applies to using Roman numerals (like “V” for five, and “MCMXI” for 1911).
Let’s say your desired LLC name is 25 Stars LLC, but there is already an Ohio company named 25 Stars. You could instead use one of these business names:
- Twenty-Five Stars LLC
- Twenty 5 Stars LLC
- XXV Stars LLC
Changing Word Order
Changing the order of words in a business name creates distinguishability. For example, Buckeye Baked LLC is distinguishable from Baked Buckeye LLC.
If a word in your business name is spelled differently, it’s distinguishable from another similar name. This rule includes phonetic spellings, variations, and misspellings (whether intentional or not).
Let’s say your desired LLC name is Quick Start LLC. But there’s already an Ohio business named QuickStart Inc, so your name isn’t available. You could use one of these different spellings instead:
- Kwik Start LLC
- Quik Start LLC
- Qwick Start LLC
Using the same word(s), but in a different language, creates distinguishability.
For example: La Fleur Inc. is distinguishable from The Flower LLC and La Flor Inc. The French (La Fleur) is distinguishable from the Spanish (La Flor) and the English (The Flower).
Suffixes, Derivations or Deviations
Using different versions of the same root word can create distinguishability. This rule can be tricky, because it all depends on the opinion of the LLC examiner who reviews your paperwork. It might be easier to just come up with a truly unique business name.
Let’s say your desired LLC name is Ladybug Creations LLC. But there’s already an Ohio business named Ladybug Creations Inc. You might be able to use the following names instead:
- Ladybug Creatives LLC
- Ladybug Creates LLC
- Ladybug Creativity LLC
But consider using a truly unique name, like Ladybug Art Studio LLC.
Want to watch a video tutorial instead?
The video below shows you how to search LLC names in Colorado.
The video starts with LLC name rules in Colorado. Then at the 100 minute mark, you can see LLC searches being completed.
What if my Ohio business name is rejected?
If you file your Ohio Articles of Organization (the document that creates your Ohio LLC) and the business name is not available, don’t panic. The state will notify you and tell you why your filing was rejected.
You will just need to file again with a variation of your LLC name or a different LLC name.
Ohio Business Name FAQs
Do I need a name reservation in Ohio?
No, a name reservation isn’t required to form an LLC in Ohio. It’s an unnecessary step and a waste of money.
You can just file your LLC’s Articles of Organization with your desired LLC name.
Does Ohio require LLC in the name?
Yes. Your Ohio LLC name must contain one of the allowable designators at the end. The most commonly used designators are:
- Limited Liability Company
Does my Ohio LLC need a DBA?
No, you’re not required to file a DBA (“Doing Business As”) for your business entity in Ohio.
A DBA (known as a Fictitious Name or Trade Name in Ohio) lets your LLC conduct business under a name which is different from its true and legal name (the name on your Articles of Organization).
If you want your LLC to do business under a name that’s different from its true and legal name, you have to file a Trade Name or Fictitious Name Registration online or by mail. And you’ll pay an additional fee of $39 to the Secretary of State. Check out the Secretary of State Name Guide for more information on this process.
If you are going to file a Trade Name for your Ohio LLC, it must also be distinguishable from existing business names in the state.
There is no limit to the number of Fictitious Names or Trade Names an LLC can have.
For more information, please see Does my LLC need a DBA?
When would my LLC use a DBA?
Let’s say you form an LLC called Amish Barn Carriage Tours LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Amish Tours. In this case, your LLC would need to file a Trade Name Registration to use the name Amish Tours.
If you don’t file a Trade Name Registration for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Amish Barn Carriage Tours LLC.
Similarly, if you want to do business under the name Amish Barn Carriage Tours, just without the letters “LLC” in the name, you will need to file a Fictitious Name Registration for Amish Barn Carriage Tours.
How do I get a business domain name?
Once you’ve found a business name that you like, it’s a good idea to check if your domain name is available before forming your LLC.
You can search for available domain names with GoDaddy:
Find a domain name
What does “distinguishability” mean?
Each business entity name must be “distinguishable upon the records” of the Secretary of State.
This means that no two businesses can operate with the same exact name. Said another way, if a business already exists with your desired LLC name, you can’t register your LLC with that name.
For example, let’s say you want to form an LLC called Bullfrog Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Bullfrog Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing Ohio Corporation, it is not distinguishable. You can’t use it and must choose another name.
How do I come up with a business name?
Business names are important for branding and recognition. The name of your Ohio LLC can be your company’s brand name, but it doesn’t have to be (please see the FAQ about DBAs above). Either way, picking a good LLC name is an important decision.
Here are some quick tips for coming up with business names:
- First, write down the features of your company and things that you want to be associated with.
- Then list out as many business names as you can think of. Don’t edit or analyze them. Just get as many names on the page as you can.
- Now go back and read through them. Write down any variations that come to mind.
- Next, set the list aside. Do something else, like go for a walk or get groceries, or sleep on it for the night. Then come back and review the list of names. As you go through it, write down additional ideas and variations.
- Read the whole list out loud. If you want, get input from friends, business partners, and family.
- Repeat the process: sleep on the ideas, write down new variations, read them out loud again.
- The best business name will often “rise off the page” and present itself. If it doesn’t, you can try this trick: Close your eyes and count to 10. When you get to 10, you must choose a name. When you open your eyes, force yourself to make a decision. Sometimes we know the best name deep in our subconscious, and this trick can help it come out. Trust yourself and go with what feels best.
Can I use the name of another Ohio entity?
No. You can’t use the same name as another Ohio business.
And it doesn’t matter what entity type it is – your LLC can’t have the same entity name as another corporation, LLC, or any other entity type.
You can’t use another business’s name even if the entity is in “delinquent” status on the Ohio Secretary of State website.
But if a business is dissolved (or “dead”), they no longer have rights to that name. This means you can form an LLC with the same name.
How do I change my LLC name?
You can change your LLC’s name later by filing an Amendment form with the Secretary of State.
We have step-by-step instructions on how to change an LLC name in Ohio.
How to start an LLC in Ohio?
Here are the steps to starting an LLC in Ohio:
- Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
- Choose who will be your Ohio Registered Agent
- File the Ohio LLC Articles of Organization
- Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
- Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS
- Open an LLC bank account
- Check whether you need a business or sales tax license in Ohio
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.