When planning to start a D.C. 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 quite a few businesses in Washington, D.C., and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Don’t forget to get your business’ domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you later. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Reasons to Perform a D.C. LLC Name Search
Checking for District of Columbia 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 D.C. LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the district.
3) Registered Agent Name 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 District of Columbia 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 D.C. registered agent to an LLC member or a registered agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the district already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform a D.C. LLC Name Search
The D.C. Business Center website has a simple Business Search page on which you can enter a full or partial business name to conduct a search.
If the name you want is available, great! You can go ahead and reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization. If it’s already in use, you’re out of luck, and you’ll need to come up with a new one.
If you’re seeking information on an existing business, you can search through D.C.’s databases of corporations, business licenses, professional licenses, and Certified Business Enterprises from the same page we linked above.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
Unfortunately, sometimes you find that your perfect name is already in use in D.C. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in D.C.), 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.
There are some additional steps if you run a foreign LLC, though. You’ve already been operating under a business name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in D.C., you will need to register a different one in order to operate in compliance with District law.
How to Make a D.C. LLC Name Distinguishable
All District of Columbia business names, actual or alternate, registered or reserved, must adhere to the state’s naming requirements. They state that your LLC name must:
- End with “Limited Liability Company,” which may be abbreviated to L.L.C. or LLC
- Not be the same as or deceptively similar to any business names currently on file with the District
- Not include any words or abbreviations that would imply the LLC is a different entity type, such as “corporation,” “Inc.,” “limited partnership,” etc.
- Not use the words “bank,” “banking,” “credit union,” or “insurance” without approval from the mayor’s office
- Not be deceptively similar to or the same as any government agency within the United States
For more information about the guidelines for Washington, D.C., business names, take a look at Title 29, Chapter 1, Subchapter III of the Code of the District of Columbia.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in D.C., you can proceed to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a D.C. business name costs $50, which is more expensive than it is in most states, and you’ll have the exclusive rights to the name for 120 days.
Or, you can simply use the name on your Articles of Organization when you start your LLC, which will register it automatically.
Need Help Starting an LLC?
As we mentioned earlier, an LLC formation service can take care of all the paperwork for you, and most of them include name search services at no additional charge. Using a formation service ensures 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.