When planning to start a Georgia 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 Georgia, 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 Georgia 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 Georgia 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 Control Number, which you may need for certain filings in the future.
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 Georgia 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 Georgia LLC Name Search
Whatever your reasons for searching a business name, there’s only one way to go about it – using the Corporations Division Business Search. It allows you to enter a full or partial name and see all relevant matches.
Just checking a name’s availability? No problem. Simply enter your exact desired name in the “Business Name” search bar and see if anything comes up. If the search returns a business already using your name, you’ll need to come up with a different, distinguishable one. But if it yields no results, that name is likely available for use on a name reservation or the Articles of Organization. The Business Search page says that it’s not intended to provide official name availability, but it will give you a good idea of whether or not your name is unique.
When searching for a specific piece of business information, enter the full name, partial name, control number, registered agent name, or officer name for the desired business. Then click on the correct company and you’ll find:
- Business Name
- Control Number
- Business Type
- Business Status (active, dissolved, etc.)
- NAICS Code and Sub Code
- Principal Office Address
- Date of Formation/Registration
- State of Formation
- Last Annual Registration Year
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
None of this specific information applies if you’re only looking for name availability, but you’ll likely need it in the future – either for your own business or someone else’s – and you’ll know right where to find it.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the 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 Georgia), 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.
Foreign LLCs have different circumstances because they’ve already been operating under a particular name in other states. Still, if that name is unavailable in Georgia, they will need to come up with a different, distinguishable one. The state allows foreign LLCs to “apply for a Certificate of Authority under any name, whether or not it is the name under which it is registered in its jurisdiction of organization.”
How to Make an Georgia LLC Name Distinguishable
Keep in mind that availability isn’t the only requirement for an LLC name. The state sets out other rules too. Your LLC name:
- Must contain a business type identifier like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC”
- Cannot use any of the following terms without written consent from the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner: “insurance,” “assurance,” “surety,” “fidelity,” “reinsurance,” “reassurance,” or “indemnity”
- Cannot use any of the following terms without written consent from the Department of Banking and Finance: “bank,” “banc,” “banque,” “banker,” “banking company,” “banking house,” “bancorp,” “bankruptcy,” “credit union,” “savings & loan,” “trust,” or “trust company”
- Cannot use any of the following terms without written consent from the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission: “college” or “university”
Okay, you’ve followed all the guidelines, but if your name still isn’t available, how do you make it distinguishable? Before you start making changes, here are some alterations that will NOT distinguish it:
- Adding/removing “a,” “an,” or “the”
- Changing the entity type (LLC vs. Inc.)
- Changing “and” to “&”
- Changing punctuation
- Plural vs. singular nouns
- Adding a suffix
- Using abbreviations (if using an abbreviation is the only change)
- Using a phonetic spelling of the same word
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you need to distinguish your name, but don’t want to change the whole thing, try rearranging the words, finding synonyms, or adding/removing words. This way, you can keep a similar name while making it unique.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Georgia, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a Georgia business name costs $25 but only holds your name for 30 days. Or, you can use that name on your 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.