Starting an LLC is one thing; choosing a distinctive, memorable LLC name that tells people what you do is another.
And even when you have an LLC name that’s unforgettable and informative, it must still pass your state’s naming requirements and be free to trademark!
Fortunately, it’s possible; all you need is the right advice. We’ll look at the best tips and practices for naming your LLC, as well as name requirements for your state so you can choose the perfect one for your business.
Your LLC’s name has several jobs to do. It must make a positive first impression with your target audience, distinguish you from your competitors, be original, and, most importantly, be memorable.
You’ll also use your LLC name for all things legal, like applying for an EIN, opening a business account, and signing contracts.
Here’s how you do it:
It’s obvious why a business name must be original and memorable, right?
However, can you remember the names of 3 new small businesses you recently used? Tricky, isn’t it? Let’s say you could remember 1 or 2. Now think about why you remember them.
Is it a witty play on words? A clever compound? Or a fun pun? Like my favorite ice cream and waffle shop in Cornwall, England called Game of Cones. And I’m not the only one that loves the name. Emilia Clarke, who played Daenerys Targaryen in the hit show Game of Thrones posted it on her Instagram!
Game of Cones owner Simon Sassoon explained how he came up with his name. “We called it Game of Cones for carnival week. It stuck; everybody loved the pun, so we kept it.”
Memorable LLC names are short and catchy; they roll off the tongue, and if they make us smile, even better.
Sorry, how do you spell/pronounce that? These are questions you never want to hear because the moment your name confuses a potential customer, they’ll look and search elsewhere.
To ensure that never happens, choose a name that’s easy to spell and pronounce, and refrain from using special characters or misspelled words, so people remember it. That way, when potential customers search online, they’ll always find your business.
Where do you see your business 5 years from now?
Your answer is crucial because your chosen LLC name must enable your business to get where it’s going.
You can future-proof your LLC name by not making it product or location specific. For example, if you name your business after a single product or service, it won’t allow you to expand into other markets.
Instead, consider the problems your product or service solves for your target audience and how they make people feel. Then name your business to reflect your unique value propositions and engage your ideal client’s interest and imagination.
Odds are you’ll need a website for your new LLC, which requires a name. Ideally, your domain should be the same as your registered business name and a top-level domain (TLD) like .com.
To check your name’s availability, do a general internet search and use a domain registering site like GoDaddy.
Branding is how you engage your target audience and project your message. What are you selling or providing and how do you solve your target audience’s pain points?
Your business name plays an essential part in that role, so before you pick one, think about the following:
Now use those words in your LLC name to convey a feeling to your target audience. And if your industry allows, inject some fun into your name as it makes them memorable.
Like Hollerbach or Amigone, can you guess what service they provide?
Yup, funeral homes.
You apply to register a business name when filing your LLC’s articles of organization with your Secretary of State’s office.
Articles of organization are the legal documents you complete when applying to form a legal entity. The problem is if your state rejects your business name, it’ll also deny your LLC application.
All 50 U.S. states have specific guidelines for naming an LLC. Most are similar, but requirements can vary depending on location. So, check your state’s website for the LLC naming requirements before applying.
Similar state LLC naming requirements are:
Your LLC name must end with one of the following: Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, Liability Co, or the initials LLC, LLC, LC, or Ltd.
You can’t use entity terminologies that differ from LLC, such as Corporation, Corp, Incorporated, Limited Partnership, or Inc.
It’s forbidden to use a name that misleads or falsely implies your business is an insurance company, bank, or anything it’s not.
You can’t include medical, legal, or engineer words in your LLC name unless you are a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.
Offensive terms like swear words or words that provoke indecent thoughts are prohibited. Nor should you use names that promote or suggest illegal activities.
Most states restrict using words that could confuse a business with a government agency, such as words like federal, city, counsel, and township.
Once you follow your state’s LLC name guidelines and regulations, your business name application should get approval. But before you apply, check your state’s business name search tool to avoid disappointment.
State requirements for registering a business vary. However, only some, if any, allow 2 business entities with identical names.You can avoid registering an identical business name by checking with your state`s naming agency before filing your articles of organization.
Visit your Secretary of State’s website, where you should find an entity name check tool (most states have one). Use this to check your name’s availability to register as a legal entity in your state.
But name check tools only confirm that your chosen name is available as a legal entity within that state. And while 2 LLCs in different locations can have the same name, only one can have a trademark.
Next, you must conduct a national/federal trademark search.
Trademarks stop businesses from infringing upon another’s branding materials, such as their name, logo, and tagline, at a national level.
So, even if your name is available as an LLC in your state, if someone else owns the trademark, you might not be allowed to use it. You find that out by visiting the USPTO website and running a trademark check.
Suppose your name is available as a trademark. In that case, you can claim it and protect any products or services you provide when using it by applying for trademark registration before someone else does.
Choosing the right business name for your LLC, confirming its availability in your state, and registering it takes time and money. If you wait to file a trademark, you could waste both.
And even if you’re a local brick-and-mortar business with no intention of expanding to other states, if another company owns the trademark rights to your business name, they could stop you from using it.
With that in mind, the best time to consider a trademark is when you choose your LLC name and confirm its availability in your state.
Trademarking your business name has other benefits; let’s look.
A trademark identifies a specific business as the core source of its product or service, helping to build a reputation and establish trust with its customers.
A registered mark gives you nationwide exclusivity to use your business name to represent the goods or services you identified in your trademark class registration.
Your trademark registration enables you to protect your branding against infringement by filing a federal court lawsuit.
DBA stands for doing business as, It’s a name representing an individual or company trading using a fictitious name.
While an LLC and a DBA allow you to conduct business under your chosen name, only an LLC is a legal business structure that protects its owners. A DBA, on the other hand, is nothing more than a trade or brand name, often solely used for marketing purposes.
Many businesses use a memorable brand name instead of their official LLC name to increase public awareness.
For example, let’s say your name is Richard Cunningham and you start a linoleum supply and fit business using a generic industry name like RC Linoleum LTD. Later you decide you need a more memorable brand name. He might use a DBA to change it to Lino Ritchie. Ah, come on, I thought that was pretty good!
Using a DBA enables you to operate using an engaging brand name while retaining the liability protection of your LLC. Most states require you to use the Limited Liability Company or one of its abbreviations in your LLC name, which only sometimes suits marketing materials.
You would, however, need to continue using your LLC name on all official documents. And note that a DBA name doesn’t provide the protection an LLC or trademark does; for that, you must trademark your DBA with the USPTO.
To see if your chosen DBA is available, contact your county clerk’s office to check their list of doing business as (DBA) names in your county.
We often think of the perfect name to represent our business and branding only to discover it’s already taken. Thankfully, you can tweak your name sufficiently while retaining the core message to solve this problem.
First, try adding an “and/or” to your name. If those don’t work, add a verb like “try” or “get.” Doing so allows you to register your chosen business name, use it as your URL, and add it to a TLD like .com.
Naming your LLC is an opportunity to create a unique brand that connects with your target audience. You just need a little inspiration and imagination. The tips and best practices we just covered can help you choose a memorable one. And always follow the guidelines to gain state approval and register a trademark to protect it.
Let’s finish with some popular FAQs relevant to how to name an LLC.
The name you provide with your Secretary of State when filing your articles of organization is your LLC and business name. But that doesn’t mean your LLC name must match your business name!
In your state, you can use a different business name for branding by applying for a “doing business as,” also known as a fictitious name.
DBAs are also helpful for expanding your range of products and services or entering a new marketplace, enabling you to use a more industry-specific name.
The answer is yes, no, and maybe. It’s determined by your situation and reputation.
For example: It makes sense for non-DBA sole proprietors with a vast client base that are changing to an LLC to continue using their name. And if you have an uncommon name that’s memorable, stands out from your competitors, and suits your marketplace, that would be worth using.
The main issue with naming your LLC after yourself is you most likely won’t be able to trademark it.
You choose one of the LLC designations, such as Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, Liability Co, or the initials LLC, LLC, LC, or Ltd, and position them after your business name.
Yes, you can.
To change your LLC name, file an Articles of Amendment with your state’s name filing agency (usually your Secretary of State’s office) and pay the fee.
Once your new LLC name receives approval, you must amend your original articles of organization and update all legal documents, etc.
This portion of our website is for informational purposes only. Tailor Brands is not a law firm, and none of the information on this website constitutes or is intended to convey legal advice. All statements, opinions, recommendations, and conclusions are solely the expression of the author and provided on an as-is basis. Accordingly, Tailor Brands is not responsible for the information and/or its accuracy or completeness.
Terry is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience building businesses across multiple industries – construction, real estate, e-commerce, hotelier, and now digital media. When not working, Terry likes to kick back and relax with family, explore Taoism’s mysteries, or savor the taste of fine Italian red wine.