When planning to start an Alabama LLC, first comes your big idea, your product or service, the meat and potatoes of your business. After all, that’s how you’ll build a dream business.
But after the initial rush of deciding to take your idea to market, you have to answer an important and pressing question: “what do I call it?”
Every LLC needs a name, preferably a catchy one, specifically one that isn’t already in use. After all, despite how clever it may be, you can’t steal someone else’s name.
“But,” you may ask, “how do I know if a name is already in use?” It’s a good question. There are a lot of businesses in Alabama, a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Quick Note: If you’d like to save time, an LLC formation service (like LegalZoom and ZenBusiness) can perform an LLC name search and register the business on your behalf. No need to navigate confusing state-website portals or file anything yourself.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Alabama LLC name availability is the most common reason to perform a search, but it’s far from the only one. Here are a few other reasons you might search for a name:
1) Finding Similar Names
You don’t want potential customers confusing you with another company, especially if that company is a competitor. Your proposed name might be available, but there could also be multiple businesses out there with deceivingly similar ones. If you don’t want your LLC getting mixed up with other businesses, this might prompt you to find a new name.
2) Checking Your Business Status
Once you’ve filed the Certificate of Formation and started your Alabama LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the state and provide your entity ID number, which is required for certain filings.
3) Registered Agent and Office Information
At some point, you might need to send a business service of process. Or, more positively, you might want to partner with them. In either case, you’ll need their Alabama registered agent name and office address, readily available through a name search.
4) Maintaining Current Business Information
When modifying your LLC’s information – like changing your registered agent or principal address to a member or a registered agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the Secretary of State already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform an Alabama LLC Name Search
The Alabama Secretary of State makes it easy to search a business name and offers multiple ways to do so. Navigate to the Secretary of State’s Business Entity Records page to get started.
If it’s name availability you’re after, click the “Entity Name” link. On the next page, enter your desired name, hit “Search,” and see if anything comes up. If there’s an existing business using the name, it’s back to the drawing board. And again, if there are deceptively similar names already in existence, you might reconsider your choice. But if the search doesn’t return any results, you’re good to go! You can go ahead and reserve your business name.
But searching by entity name isn’t the only way to find a specific business. Let’s say you don’t happen to know the exact name. That’s okay – you can also search by:
These options are nice because they make it possible to find a business even when you only have a single piece of information. Plus, all of these searches yield the same business data. When viewing your search results, click on a company’s Entity ID number to access the following information:
- Entity ID Number
- Entity Type
- Principal Address
- Principal Mailing Address
- Place of Formation
- Formation Date
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Office Street Address
- Registered Office Mailing Address
- Nature of Business
- Capital Authorized
- Capital Paid In
- Organizer/Incorporator Name, Street and Mailing Address
- Scanned Documents
You won’t need this info, of course, if you’re simply checking to see if your name is in use. However, if you need other information about a particular business, it’s there at your fingertips.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Business Entity Records, you plugged in your desired name, you hit search, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Alabama), your only option is to start brainstorming ideas for a different one. Just don’t use one that’s too similar. Then, when you’ve found an acceptable, available name, go ahead and reserve it.
For foreign entities, the process is a little trickier. Your LLC has already been operating under a certain name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Alabama, you’ll need to use a “fictitious name,” or one that you’ll use only in the state. When you foreign qualify your LLC, there will be a space for a fictitious name on your Application for Registration.
How to Make an Alabama LLC Name Distinguishable
When deciding on an LLC name or fictitious name, it’s important to remember Alabama’s naming requirements so that the state will accept it. Your name must:
- Contain a term that identifies it’s business type, like “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC.”
- Not include any term that implies it is a banking, insurance, or government agency.
- Be distinguishable from all other business names registered or reserved with the Secretary of State.
But how do you make a name distinguishable? Fortunately, the state provides some guidelines. A name is NOT considered distinguishable due to changes in:
- Designators like LLC or L.L.C (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- The words “and,” and “or”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you find that your desired name is unavailable, you might try using a unique spelling, adding another word, or finding a synonym. This way, you can keep a name that’s fairly similar to the one you want, but still distinguishable to the state.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Alabama, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Certificate of Formation.
Reserving an Alabama business name costs $10 by mail or $28 online and it holds your name for one year. Once you’ve placed your name reservation, you can use that name on your Certificate of Formation when you start your LLC.
Need Help Starting an LLC?
Like we mentioned earlier, an LLC formation service can take care of all the paperwork for you. Using a formation service guarantees that your filings will be completed and submitted correctly. It also eliminates the stress of doing it yourself and gives you more time to develop your business plan, network, or just relax.