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The first step to forming an LLC in Washington is to compare your desired LLC name against the names of existing businesses registered in the state of Washington and make sure it’s available for use.
(This is referred to as being “distinguishable on the records of the Washington Secretary of State”)
Additionally, your Washington LLC name must follow certain requirements and restrictions in order to comply with state laws, known as the RCW, or Revised Code of Washington.
For those of you just looking for the Division of Corporations & Charities Search Page, here it is: https://ccfs.sos.wa.gov/#/AdvancedSearch
(Just enter your desired LLC name in the “Business Name” field and click “Search”)
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Washington LLC Name Requirements & Restrictions
Before doing an LLC name search in Washington, there are a few requirements and restrictions you need to know (as per RCW 23.95.305):
Comma in LLC Name
You can file your LLC name with or without a comma. Both are acceptable by the state.
For example: If your desired Washington LLC name is “Apple Farms”, you can file it as:
- Apple Farms LLC
- Apple Farms, LLC
Or, instead of having “LLC” as your designator (ending), there are 3 other options in Washington, as shown below.
Your Washington LLC Name Must Include the Proper Designator
Your Washington LLC must contain one of the following designators at the end of its name:
- Limited Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Company
For example: If your desired Washington LLC name is “Apple Farms”, it must be officially filed as one of the following:
- Apple Farms LLC or Apple Farms, LLC
- Apple Farms L.L.C. or Apple Farms, L.L.C.
- Apple Farms Limited Liability Co. or Apple Farms, Limited Liability Co.
- Apple Farms Limited Liability Company or Apple Farms, Limited Liability Company
Tip: If you’re not sure what designator to use, “LLC” is the most common. It’s also the shortest and the easiest to recognize.
Washington LLC Name Restrictions
Your Washington LLC name cannot imply that it is a Corporation or any other type of business entity.
You cannot use the following words or designators anywhere in your Washington LLC name:
- Inc. or Incorporated
- Corp. or Corporation
- LP or L.P.
- LLP or L.L.P.
- LLLP or L.L.L.P.
Your Washington LLC name also cannot imply that it’s a bank or a financial or lending institution, or any other type of organization which needs approval from the Washington Department of Financial Institutions.
You cannot use the following words anywhere in your Washington LLC name:
- Bank, banking, banker, trust, cooperative
- Any combination of the words “industrial” and “loan”
- Any combination of any two or more of the words: “building”, “savings”, “loan”, “home”, “association”, and “society”
Use Common Sense when naming your LLC
Your Washington LLC name cannot include any words or phrases prohibited by any statute of the State of Washington. And because the state statutes are comprised of millions of words, there’s no way we can research all that and break it down for you. This lesson would be SUPER LONG!
So use your brain. Use common sense.
Don’t make your Washington LLC name sound like it’s a government agency. Don’t use words like Police, Fire Department, Federal, Government, United States of America, City, Town, County, or anything else that will mislead the public.
Furthermore, please do not ask us if your name will be acceptable.
If you have any questions, you should contact the Washington Secretary of State at the phone number provided below.
Your Washington LLC Name Must be Distinguishable and not Deceptively Similar
As per RCW 23.95.300 (#3), your Washington LLC name must be distinguishable when compared to existing businesses registered in the state.
When the Washington Secretary of State is examining your LLC filing, they will only be looking at the “core” of your LLC name, and comparing that to existing businesses.
For example, they will be ignoring:
- Article or conjunction (the, and, &, a, an)
- Punctuation, capitalization, and special characters
- Singular, plural, and abbreviations
Designators are the endings of a business name. For example, Inc., Corporation, Corp., LLC, L.L.C., Ltd., LP, etc.
As an example, if your desired Washington LLC name is “The Bagel Shop LLC“, this name will not be available if any of the following are found during your search:
- The Bagel Shop Inc.,
- The Bagel Shop Corp.
- The Bagel Shop Co.
- The Bagel Shop Ltd.
- The Bagel Shop L.L.C.
Article or conjunction (the, and, &, a, an):
As an example, if your desired Washington LLC name is “Cranberry Farms LLC“, this name will not be available if any of the following are found during your search:
- The Cranberry Farms LLC
- A Cranberry Farms LLC
- Cranberry and Farms LLC
- Cranberry & Farms LLC
Remember: The designator rules (Inc., LLC, Ltd., etc) also apply to the above examples (as well as all other examples on this page). Our examples above are just using “LLC” for simplicity.
Punctuation, capitalization, and special characters:
Punctuation includes (but is not limited to) hyphens, periods, commas, apostrophes, quotes, exclamation points, and question marks.
Special characters include (but are not limited to) !, @, #, $, %, ^, and *.
Again, the state ignores all of these and looks at the “core” of your LLC name.
As an example, if your desired Washington LLC name is “AAC Construction LLC“, this name will not be available if any of the following are found during your search:
- A.A.C. Construction LLC
- AAC! Construction LLC
- “AAC” Construction LLC
- AAC$ Construction LLC
- A-A-C Construction LLC
Singular, plural, and abbreviations:
Changing a word from singular to plural, or abbreviating a word will not make your Washington LLC name distinguishable.
As an example, if your desired Washington LLC name is “Washington Heights Studio LLC“, this name will not be available if any of the following are found during your search:
- Washington Height Studio LLC
- Washington Heights Studios LLC
- Wash. Heights Studio LLC
How to search your Washington LLC name
Division of Corporations & Charities – Advanced Business Search:
Just enter your desired LLC name in the “Business Name” field and click “Search”.
1. It’s best to search only part of your Washington LLC name to ensure that you see everything that is potentially similar. For example, if your desired LLC name is “Spinning Studios LLC“, it’s best to just search “Spinning Studio” and/or “Spinning“.
Why? This way, if there is a “Spinning Studio LLC” or “Spinning Studios Company LLC“, you’ll see both of them; which is important, since they will be confusingly similar to your LLC name. And not only would the Secretary of State reject your LLC filing, but this would be a bad choice for branding and marketing purposes.
2. Leave out the designator, such as “LLC”, “L.L.C.”, etc., when doing your searches.
3. Leave out any punctuation like commas, periods, apostrophes, quotes, hyphens, etc.
4. The Washington name database ignores capitalization so you can search using uppercase or lowercase letters.
How to Determine the Washington Search Results:
If the results show names that are not too similar to yours (meaning yours is distinguishable), then your desired Washington LLC name is available for use.
If there are 0 search results, this means your desired Washington LLC name is unique and available for use.
If your desired LLC name appears as you want it, your desired Washington LLC name is not available for use. You’ll need to think of a new name or use some creativity and come up with a unique variation.
If the results show a name that is deceptively similar to yours, your desired Washington LLC name is not available for use. You’ll need to think of a new name or use some creativity and come up with a unique variation.
Active vs Inactive:
During your LLC name search, you’re going to come across existing businesses that are either marked “Active” or “Inactive”.
Obviously, names marked “Active” cannot be used, but names that are “Inactive” are available for use.
Washington LLC Name Statuses
There is a good chance that when searching for your LLC name, you will find the identical name of an old company that may have one of the following statuses:
- Voluntarily Dissolved
- Administratively Dissolved
You can’t use the name of an LLC with a “Delinquent” status.
Inactive, Voluntarily Dissolved, and Administratively Dissolved:
You can use the name of an LLC with an “Inactive”, “Voluntarily Dissolved”, or “Administratively Dissolved” status; however, we don’t recommend that you do.
Meaning, while the Washington Secretary of State will allow you to use the name of an LLC with one of these statuses, other “outside issues” could occur, such as the following:
1. The old company may have a bad reputation or negative reviews online. And the public may associate the negative reputation of that company with your company.
2. The owners of the old company get angry you’re using their name (even though you’re allowed) and they come after you, either via aggressive communication or by legal action. Even though their case may not be sound, they’re still allowed to sue you, and you legally have an obligation to respond to that lawsuit. So that means hiring an attorney and/or appearing in court. And this will be a headache and cost you money.
3. The old company may have unsettled debts with creditors and those creditors may come after your company. And just like the prior example, if sued, you have an obligation to respond to that lawsuit. And this will also be a headache and cost you money.
We recommend coming up with an LLC name that is truly unique and distinguishable from any other business in Washington State.
How to Brainstorm LLC Name Ideas
Keep in mind, that for many businesses, the name of your Washington LLC is the name of your brand, and picking a good name is an important component to your business’ success.
We recommend reading How to Choose a Business Name, then take out a piece of paper and write down as many names as you can think of. Then set the piece of paper aside and sleep on it. The following day, skim through the list and circle your top 2-3 names.
If needed, sleep on it one more night. The following day, the best name for your Washington LLC usually just “presents itself” to you.
Once you find a Washington LLC name that is unique and distinguishable, you’re ready to select your LLC’s Registered Agent. We’ll discuss this in the next lesson: Washington Registered Agent.
And check out TRUIC’s business name generator if you need help coming up with an LLC name.
Washington Secretary of State Contact Info
If you have any questions, you can contact the Washington Secretary of State at 360-725-0377. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm Pacific Time.
WASHINGTON STATE LLC GUIDE
Follow the lessons below to form your Washington LLC.
4 comments on “Washington Name Search”
Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.
Can my LLC name be different from the actual business name? In other words, can I set up my LLC now and use that to set up my business but then open the business under a different name (owned and operated by the LLC)? Thanks
Hi Wes, since it’s one legal entity (the LLC) doing the business, your LLC will need to register a DBA/Doing Business As (called Trade Name in Washington) if it wishes to operate under a name that is different than its true, legal name. Your LLC can register for a Trade Name in Washington after the LLC is approved. This Trade Name registration is a part of the Washington LLC Business License application. Hope that helps.
If the name of the LLC we would like has been used in the past but it is expired and/or administratively dissolved, is it possible to file for an LLC with that name?
Hi Bill, it is, but it’s not always recommended. We updated the Washington LLC name lesson explaining the different statuses and what they mean for your LLC. Hope that helps.