A unique business name is important for branding, but it’s easy to get lost in all the Wisconsin business name rules.
This page will teach you how to look up your LLC name and make sure it’s available to use.
Wisconsin LLC name
If you file your Wisconsin LLC paperwork with a name that is already used by another Wisconsin business entity – or that doesn’t meet the Wisconsin 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 Corporate Records Database (aka 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 Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ rules, which we’ve broken down below.
Note: In Wisconsin, the DFI handles business filings – not the Wisconsin Secretary of State.
How do I search the Wisconsin business entity name database?
You can use the business entity search to search your business name against the existing business entities registered in Wisconsin.
Note: This tool is sometimes called the Wisconsin Business Name Search or the Wisconsin Business Entity Search. They both refer to the same website and get you the same search records.
Visit the Wisconsin Corporate Records Search page:
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions: Corporate Records 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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.
You don’t need to use Advanced Search
Some websites recommend using the Wisconsin Business Name Search’s Advanced Search feature.
Here are all the filters you can use in the Advanced Search setting:
We don’t recommend using the Advanced Search page because it only shows you a fraction of the search records.
You should use the regular Corporate Records Search tool instead. The reason why is it will provide you with broader search results, which will help you determine if your desired business name is available.
Wisconsin DFI Name Availability Search
The DFI also has another search tool called the Name Availability Search.
The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) designed this special business name search tool to show you potential conflicts with your desired business name.
Using the Name Availability Search doesn’t guarantee that your name will be accepted, but you can use this tool along with the Corporate Records Search to check whether your desired business name is available.
How do you see if an LLC name is taken in Wisconsin?
Search your business name without the designator and without filler words.
For example, search for “Rose Gardens” instead of “The Rose Gardens LLC”.
The Name Availability Search will show you any business entity names that might conflict with yours.
So which tool should I use: Name Availability Search or Business Name Search?
We recommend using both Wisconsin LLC search tools before submitting your Articles of Organization.
It’s important to check both the Corporate Records Search and the Name Availability Search because the results need to agree.
For example, let’s say we wanted to form an LLC called “Rocket Man, LLC”.
This is what Name Availability Search shows when we searched for “Rocket Man”:
This is what Corporate Records Search shows when we searched for “Rocket Man”:
Just to make sure, we called the DFI about this possible name. They confirmed that it would probably* be approved. That’s because the existing Wisconsin business entities all have distinguishable names: the other companies’ names use additional words like “Investments” and “Real Estate” or are named “Rocketman” (one word) instead of “Rocket Man” (two words).
(*DFI representatives can’t promise that a name will be available when you file, but they can advise on whether the name appears to be taken or not.)
When in doubt, call the Department of Financial Institutions
You can call the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), Division of Corporate and Consumer Services to confirm that your LLC name is available.
Not all states offer this service, but the representatives in Wisconsin will help you use the Wisconsin Business Name Search and Name Availability Search to figure out whether your business name is available.
Their phone number is 608-261-7577. When prompted, Press 1 for the Corporate Section. Their hours are Monday through Friday, from 8am to 5pm Central Time.
Note: In Wisconsin, the DFI handles corporation filings. Not the Wisconsin Secretary of State.
Wisconsin Limited Liability Company Name Requirements
As per Section 183.0112 of the Wisconsin LLC Act, there are a few rules and requirements for naming a Wisconsin 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 Department of Financial Institutions.
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 Wisconsin.
What designators (endings) can I use in my LLC name?
Your Wisconsin LLC name must contain one of the following designators at the end:
- Limited Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Company
- Limited Co.
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company
Note: Most people choose “LLC”.
The following designators are not allowed
Your Wisconsin LLC can’t make itself sound like a Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin LLC name?
Your Wisconsin 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 a Wisconsin business entity, please see this page: Wisconsin DFI FAQs.
Special Word: “Insurance”
If your Wisconsin LLC name includes the word “insurance”, the name must make it clear that your LLC is not an insurance company.
For example, you could use names like “Kenosha Insurance Agents, LLC” or “Health Insurance Helpers LLC”.
These names indicate that the company provides services related to insurance, but isn’t an insurance company itself.
Your Wisconsin business name must be distinguishable (unique)
When you search the Wisconsin DFI Corporate Records Database, 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 Jake’s Fishing Company LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the Wisconsin Business Name Search results:
- Jake’s Fishing Company, Inc.
- Jake’s Fishing Company, Corp.
- Jake’s Fishing Company, L.L.C.
Including the words “Wisconsin” or “Company”, or an abbreviation of those words, doesn’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is Green Flag Wisconsin LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Green Flag Inc.
- Green Flag Company Inc.
- Green Flag WI LLC
Adding non-meaningful or filler words (the, a, an, and, &, of, or) won’t create distinguishability.
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
Numerals or Spelled Out Numbers
Using numerals (like 5 or 101) instead of spelling out the number (like “five” or “one hundred and one”) doesn’t create distinguishability.
If your desired LLC name is 25 Stars LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:
- Twenty-Five Stars LLC
- Twenty 5 Stars Inc.
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 Wisconsin business name is rejected?
If you file your Wisconsin Articles of Organization (the document that creates your Wisconsin 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. If you re-file your Articles of Organization within 45 days, you won’t have to pay the state fee again. If you wait longer than 45 days to refile, the state will refund your filing fee and you have to start over.
Wisconsin Business Name FAQs
You can just file your LLC’s Articles of Organization with your desired LLC name.
- Limited Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
A DBA (known as a Trademark or Trade Name in Wisconsin) 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 Trademark Registration and pay an additional fee of $15 to the DFI. Check out the DFI Trademark Guide for more information on this process.
If you are going to file a Trademark for your Wisconsin LLC, it must also be distinguishable from existing business names in the state.
There is no limit to the number of Trademarks 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 Sky Tree Cruise Lines LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Sky Cruises. In this case, your LLC would need to file a Trademark Registration to use the name Sky Cruises.
If you don’t file a Trademark Registration for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Sky Tree Cruise Lines LLC.
Similarly, if you want to do business under the name Sky Cruises, just without the letters “LLC” in the name, you will need to file a Trademark for Sky Tree Cruise Lines.
You can search for available domain names with GoDaddy:
[llcu-cta id="30801" label="GoDaddy - Search Box" /]
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 Lambeau Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Lambeau Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing Wisconsin Corporation, it is not distinguishable. You can’t use it and must choose another name.
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.
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 Wisconsin DFI website.
But if the business entity is dissolved, it no longer exists. You could form a new LLC with the same name as a dissolved business.
- Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
- Choose who will be your Wisconsin Registered Agent
- File the Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin
Next Step: Wisconsin Registered Agent
Once you find a Wisconsin business name that is unique, you’re ready to select your LLC’s Registered Agent. We’ll discuss this in the next lesson: Wisconsin Registered Agent.