When planning to start a Florida 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 Florida, 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 Florida 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 Florida 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 Document Number, which you may need for future 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 Florida 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 Department of State already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform an Florida LLC Name Search
There are several different ways to search for business information, all through the Florida Department of State’s Records Search.
To check a name’s availability, you’ll want to search by entity name. Enter the exact name you intend to use and see if it returns any results. If any companies appear, your name is already in use and you’ll need to come up with something different. But if there are no results, the name is all yours – just use it when you file your Articles of Organization and it will be automatically registered.
If you’re looking for a specific business, you should be able to find it by searching by its full or partial name. But what if you don’t know the name? That’s okay, you can also search by:
- Officer/Registered Agent
- Registered Agent Name
- Trademark Name
- Trademark Owner Name
- Detail by Document Number
- Zip Code
- Street Address
These options are nice because they make it possible to find a business even when you only have a single piece of information. When you find the business you want, click its name and you’ll see the following information:
- Document Number
- FEI/EIN Number
- Date Filed
- Effective Date
- Home State
- Last Event
- Last Event Date
- Principal Address
- Mailing Address
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- Authorized Person(s) Detail
- Annual Report Dates
- Filing Document Images
Of course, you won’t need this information if you’re simply seeking name availability. But you will likely need it at some point during the life of your business, and you’ll know right where to find it.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Records 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 Florida), 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 use it on your Articles of Organization.
The process is different, though, for foreign LLCs. If your company has already been operating under a particular name in other states, but that name isn’t available in Florida, you’ll need to choose an “alternate name.” This is the name that you will use while doing business in the state. When foreign qualifying in Florida, you can indicate an alternate name on your Application for Authorization.
How to Make an Florida LLC Name Distinguishable
Don’t forget that your LLC name, whether actual or alternate, must adhere to Florida’s business name requirements, meaning they must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC”
- Not use language indicating that the LLC is formed for a purpose other than the one authorized by the Articles of Organization
- Not use language that implies affiliation with a state or federal government agency.
- Be distinguishable from all other business names registered with the Department of State
But if you find yourself needing to make a name distinguishable, you may find yourself asking: how? It can help to look at changes that WON’T make a name distinguishable. They are:
- Definite or indefinite articles
- The word “and” or symbol “&”
- The single, plural, or possessive form of a word
- A recognized abbreviation
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. But there are ways to distinguish a name without changing it entirely. Try using a unique spelling, rearranging the words, finding synonyms, adding/removing words, or using an acronym. This way, you can keep a similar name that’s compliant with state laws.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Florida, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Florida does not offer an option for reserving a business name. The only way to lock in your name is to use it when filing your Articles of Organization or Application for Authorization.
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.