When planning to start an Arizona 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 Arizona, 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 Arizona 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 Articles of Organization and started your Arizona 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) Statutory Agent and Registered 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 Arizona statutory 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 statutory agent or principal address to a member or a statutory agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the Arizona Corporation Commission (A.C.C.) already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform an Arizona LLC Name Search
The Arizona Corporation Commission makes it easy to search a business name, whether you’re seeking a name’s availability or for a specific business.
Head to the A.C.C.’s business search page to get started. You’ll find a few different search bars, but if you’re simply checking name availability, enter your desired name in the “Entity Name” bar and click “Search.” See any results? If so, your name is already in use and you’ll need to come up with a different one. If not, you’re good to go! Feel free to use that name on your Articles of Organization or when filing a name reservation.
Searching an entity name isn’t the only option, though. If you’re searching for a specific company, but don’t know the exact name, you can also search by statutory agent name, principal name, or entity ID. Or, if you only know part of the entity’s name, the search page will provide a list of all businesses that contain those words.
These are great options if you’re looking for a business, but only have one specific piece of information. Click on any business in the search results and you’ll have access to the following information:
- Entity name
- Entity type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- Formation date
- Approval date
- Home state
- Entity ID
- Entity status (active, dissolved, etc.)
- Status date
- Life period (duration)
- Last Annual Report filed
- Annual Report due date
- Statutory agent name
- Statutory agent address
- Date agent was last updated
- Principal name
- Principal address
- Known place of business address
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 A.C.C. business search, 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 Arizona), 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, reserve or register it.
For foreign entities, the process is a little trickier. These companies already have a business name they’ve been using in other states, but that name may or may not be available in Arizona. In the event that your foreign LLC name is taken in Arizona, you’ll need to indicate a “fictitious name” on your Application for Registration. A fictitious name is a separate name that your LLC will use only in Arizona, and if you indicate a fictitious name when you foreign qualify, it will be automatically registered.
How to Make an Arizona LLC Name Distinguishable
All registered and reserved LLC names, real or fictitious, must adhere to Arizona’s naming requirements. They state that LLC names must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or one of the abbreviations L.L.C., L.C., LLC, or LC.
- Not contain the words “association”, “corporation”, “incorporated”, or any abbreviations thereof.
- Be distinguishable from all other business names registered or reserved with the Arizona Corporation Commission.
But what makes a name distinguishable? If your desired name is already in use, you’ll need to differentiate your LLC somehow. Making the following changes, according to the state, is not enough to distinguish your name:
- Entity identifiers like LLC or L.L.C (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Spaces between words
- Ampersand (&) vs. “and”
- Numerals vs. the words that represent them (1, 2, 3 vs. one, two, three)
- The use of “a,” “an,” and “the.”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. While the changes above won’t make your name stand out from the crowd, other alterations will. Try rearranging the words, using unique spellings, making a word singular or plural, using abbreviations or acronyms, or finding synonyms. These will distinguish your name without having to come up with something entirely different.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Arizona, you can proceed to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving an Arizona business name costs $45 and it holds your name for 120 days. However, if you’re ready to start your business, just use the available name on your Articles of Organization or Application for Registration and it will be registered with the state.
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.