A unique business name is important for branding, but it’s easy to get lost in all the rules for West Virginia business names.
This page will teach you how to look up your LLC name and make sure it’s available to use.
West Virginia LLC name
If you file your West Virginia LLC paperwork with a name that is already used by another West Virginia business entity – or that doesn’t meet the West Virginia 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 (aka Business Name 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 West Virginia Secretary of State’s rules, which we’ve broken down below.
Get a Verbal Approval from the Secretary of State
Important: If you want to avoid any filing issues, you’ll need to confirm your LLC name is available before getting an EIN and filing your Articles of Organization.
First follow the guide below to search your LLC name and review the rules.
Then call the Secretary of State for an informal check on whether your business name is available. Their phone number is 304-558-8000. Their hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 5pm Eastern time.
Tip: While the state will tell you this “isn’t a guarantee”, if your name passes a preliminary check by phone, there’s a 95% chance it’ll be approved. They just have to say this legal disclaimer.
How do I use the West Virginia business entity search?
You can use the business entity search to compare your business name against the existing business entities registered in West Virginia.
Note: This tool is sometimes called the West Virginia Corporation Search, West Virginia Business Organization Search or West Virginia Business Search. They all refer to the same website and get you the same search records.
Visit the West Virginia Business Entity Search page:
West Virginia Secretary of State: Business Entity Search
It’s simple to use: 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia Business Entity 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 West Virginia 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 purchase any marketing materials. This way you don’t spend money on business supplies you can’t use because your business name isn’t available.
West Virginia Limited Liability Company Name Requirements
As per Section 31B-1-105 of the West Virginia LLC Act, there are a few rules and requirements for naming a West Virginia 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 West Virginia.
What designators (endings) can I use in my LLC name?
Your West Virginia LLC name must contain one of the following designators at the end:
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Limited Company
- Ltd. Company
- Limited Co.
- Ltd. Co.
Note: Most people choose “LLC”. It’s easier than using the whole phrase “Limited Liability Company”.
The following designators are not allowed
Your West Virginia LLC can’t make itself sound like a West Virginia Corporation or any other business entity besides an LLC per West Virginia Code Section 31E-4-402.
The following words and designators can’t be used anywhere in your LLC name:
What words are not allowed in my West Virginia LLC name?
Your West Virginia 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 a government agency or elected government office, 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.
Your West Virginia business name must be distinguishable (unique)
When you use the West Virginia Secretary of State Business Entity 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 (corporate name endings) don’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is Jake’s Fishing Company LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the West Virginia Business Organization Search results:
- Jake’s Fishing Company, Inc.
- Jake’s Fishing Company, Corp.
- Jake’s Fishing Company, L.L.C.
Adding non-meaningful or filler words (the, a, an, and, &, -) won’t create distinguishability. The West Virginia Secretary of State calls these “word separators”.
If your desired LLC name is Pleasant Farms LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- The Pleasant Farms LLC
- A Pleasant Farm Inc.
- Pleasant and Farms L.L.C.
- Pleasant & Farms Corp
Separated vs. Combined Words
The same word separated by a space is not distinguishable from the word without a space.
If your desired LLC name is StreetFighter Apparel LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Street Fighter Apparel LLC
- StreetFighter Apparel Incorporated
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 Paulo’s Balloons LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Paulos Balloons LLC
- Paulo’s Balloon Inc.
- Paulos Balloon, L.L.C.
What if my West Virginia business name is rejected?
If you file your West Virginia Articles of Organization (the document that creates your West Virginia LLC) and your business name is not available, don’t panic. The Secretary of State will notify you that your name is not available, and ask you for an alternate name for your LLC.
If you filed online: The Secretary of State will email you for a new name. If you don’t respond in a few days, they will reject your LLC filing and refund your filing fee. You’ll also need to get a new EIN – our West Virginia LLC Rejected page has a step-by-step guide.
If you filed by mail: The Secretary of State will contact you for a new name. If you don’t respond in a few days, they will reject your LLC filing and send it back to you. They will return your check or money order, uncashed.
If you don’t have a new name idea or you miss the communications from the Secretary of State, you can simply refile your LLC later with a different name. Make sure to use the West Virginia Business Entity Search and call the state to confirm the new name is available.
West Virginia Business Name FAQs
How do I find out if a business name is available in WV?
Search your business name on the West Virginia Secretary of State Business Entity Search. You should search without the designator and without filler words.
For example, search for “Rose Gardens” instead of “The Rose Gardens LLC”.
The Business Entity Search will show you any business entity names that might conflict with yours.
We explain How to Interpret the Search Results above.
Do I need a name reservation in West Virginia?
No, a name reservation isn’t required to form an LLC in West Virginia. 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 West Virginia require LLC in the name?
Yes. Your West Virginia LLC name must contain one of the allowable designators at the end. The most commonly used designators are:
- Limited Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
Does my West Virginia LLC need a DBA?
No, you’re not required to file a DBA (“Doing Business As”) for your business entity in West Virginia.
A DBA (known as a Trade Name in West Virginia) 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 an Application for Trade Name (DBA) and pay an additional fee of $25 to the Secretary of State.
If you are going to file a DBA for your West Virginia LLC, it must also be distinguishable from existing business names in the state.
There is no limit to the number of DBAs 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 Brandi Smith Hair Salon LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Brandi’s Braids. In this case, your LLC would need to file an Application for Trade Name to use the name Brandi’s Braids.
If you don’t file a DBA Application for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Brandi Smith Hair Salon LLC.
Similarly, if you want to do business under the name Brandi Smith Hair Salon, just without the letters “LLC” in the name, you will need to file a DBA for Brandi Smith Hair Salon.
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 West Virginia 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 Sugar Maple Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Sugar Maple Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing West Virginia Corporation, it’s 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 West Virginia LLC can be your company’s brand name, but it doesn’t have to be (please see the DBA section 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.
Which West Virginia Business Entity Search should I use?
There are two different Business Entity Search tools from the West Virginia Secretary of State.
The Business Entity Search page shows you a simple list of all the search results. It’s mostly designed for ordering copies of documents.
The Business Organizations Search gives you a more detailed list of search results. We recommend this tool because it is more useful for comparing names and determining whether your LLC name is available.
Can I use the name of another West Virginia entity?
It depends on the type of entity.
You can’t use the name of another formal business entity. If the business is registered with the Secretary of State (like a Corporation, an LLC or a Limited Partnership), their name is protected and you can’t use it.
You can use the name of an informal business entity. Informal structures like Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships don’t register with the Secretary of State. They only register with the State Tax Department, and their names are not protected.
If you file your LLC paperwork with the same name as an informal business entity, the Secretary of State will contact you to let you know. You can either change your LLC name to be different from that other company, or go ahead and register it.
However, you may not want to use the same name as another business, even if you technically can. It could be confusing for your customers or vendors if you have the same name as another business.
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 West Virginia.
How do I register an LLC in WV?
Here are the steps to starting an LLC in West Virginia:
- Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
- Choose who will be your West Virginia Registered Agent
- Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS
- File the West Virginia LLC Articles of Organization
- Get your Business Registration Certificate
- Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
- Open an LLC bank account
West Virginia LLC Act, Section 31B-1-105
West Virginia Secretary of State: Register a Trade Name (DBA)
West Virginia Secretary of State: Reserve/Register a Business Name
West Virginia Secretary of State: Name Availability and Requirements
West Virginia University: 15 Steps to Form a Business in West Virginia (PDF)