When planning to start a Colorado 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 Colorado, 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 Colorado 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 Colorado 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 LLC’s 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 Colorado 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 a Colorado LLC Name Search
The Colorado Secretary of State has two different business search options, and which one you use depends on your goal.
If you want to see if a business name is available, there’s a specific “Name Availability Search” option. Enter your desired name in the search bar and it will let you know if it’s already in use or not. If it’s free, great! You can reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization. And if it’s not, you’ll need to come up with a new one.
On the other hand, you may be trying to find information on a specific business. In this case, use the “Business Database Search,” which contains every company registered with the Secretary of State. Enter a full or partial business name, trademark, trade name, ID, or document number.
If you search a keyword, the search will return numerous results, and if you search an exact name or ID, it will likely return only one. Either way, you can access the following information by selecting any business:
- Entity Name
- Status (good standing, delinquent, etc.)
- ID Number
- Periodic Report Month
- Formation Date
- Entity Type (LLC, corporation, etc.)
- State of Jurisdiction
- Principal Office Address
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
You won’t need this info, of course, if you’re simply checking to see if your name is in use. But at some point in the life of your business, you likely will, and you’ll know right where to find it.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Name Availability 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 Colorado), 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.
Is your LLC based in another state? The process for foreign LLCs is a little different. Your LLC has already been operating under a particular name, but if that name isn’t available in Colorado, you will need to establish and “assumed name,” or a name that your LLC will use only in the state. When you foreign qualify in Colorado, you can designate an assumed name on your Statement of Foreign Entity Authority.
How to Make an Colorado LLC Name Distinguishable
Like other states, Colorado has its own set of business name requirements. Whether actual or assumed, your LLC name must:
- Use one of the following terms – Limited Liability Company, Ltd. Liability Company, Limited Liability Co., Ltd. Liability Co., Limited, L.L.C., LLC, Ltd.
- Be both available and distinguishable from all other business names registered or reserved with the Secretary of State.
But what, exactly, does it mean to have a distinguishable name? The process of determining uniqueness is highly specific. Changes to a name’s punctuation or capitalization do not make it distinguishable. However, altering the name’s entity designator or adding/removing articles like “the” or “a” will differentiate it.
Additionally, you might try rearranging words, changing the spelling, using abbreviations or acronyms, or adding words. This way, you’ll have a distinguishable name without having to change it entirely. Still, you don’t want your LLC name being so close to another entity’s name that people will confuse them, so be careful when altering it. Read over the Secretary of State’s Entity Names FAQ page for more information.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Colorado, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
You can reserve a Colorado business name for 120 days by paying a $25 fee. Or, you can use your available name on the Articles of Organization, which will automatically register it.
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.