When planning to start an Illinois 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 Illinois, 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 Illinois 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 Illinois 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 File Number, which you may need for certain 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 Illinois 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 Illinois LLC Name Search
Whether you’re checking name availability or looking for a specific business, you’ll need to use the Secretary of State’s Corporation/LLC Search.
To find name availability, choose “Corporate and LLC” and click “Continue.” Then, enter your desired name in the search bar and hit continue again. See any results? If so, you’re out of luck – it’s already in use. If not, the name is available and you can reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
You can also file an electronic Name Availability Inquiry Form. Simply enter your name, address, contact information, business type, and three name options, then send it off. The Secretary of State’s office will check their business database and respond to let you know if your name is available.
To find an existing business, enter its name in the Corporation/LLC Search. Or, you can search by keyword or partial word. This way, you can find a company even if you don’t know the exact name. Once you have a list of results, click on one to access the following information:
- File Number
- Entity Name
- Status (Good Standing, Dissolved, etc.)
- Entity Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- Domestic or Foreign
- Filing Date
- State of Jurisdiction
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Change Date
- Registered Agent Address
- Principal Office Address
- Manager/Member List
- Annual Report Filling Date
The Secretary of State keeps this information for every Illinois business and available to the public. You won’t need it for a simple name availability search, but it’s helpful if you’re contacting another business or checking up on your own.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Corporation/LLC 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 Illinois), 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 from out of state? For foreign businesses, the process is a little more complicated. You’ve already been operating under a particular name in other states, but if it isn’t available in Illinois, you’ll need to file for an “assumed name,” a name that you will only use in Illinois. To do so, complete and submit an “Application to Adopt an Assumed Name,” and include that name on your “Application for Admission to Transact Business” when you foreign qualify.
How to Make an Illinois LLC Name Distinguishable
Remember that any business name you choose must comply with the Illinois naming requirements, which means that it must:
- Use one of the terms: “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC”
- Not contain any of the following terms: “Corporation,” “Corp.” “Incorporated,” “Inc.,” “Ltd.,” “Co.,” “Limited Partnership” or “LP.”
- Not use any terms that imply organization for the purpose of insurance, assurance, or banking.
- Be distinguishable and available within the Illinois Secretary of State records.
But distinguishable can be a nebulous term. What does it mean to have a “distinguishable” name? The Illinois State Code, Section 4.05 states that the following changes are NOT enough (on their own) to distinguish a name:
- Designators like LLC or L.L.C (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Articles (“the,” “a,” “an”) and conjunctions (“and,” “but,” “or,” etc.)
- Verb tenses
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. But you’ll likely not want to change your name entirely to make it distinguishability. Try finding synonyms, using unique spellings, rearranging the words, adding prefixes or suffixes, and using acronyms. This way, you can make your name unique without coming up with something totally different.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Illinois, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
If you’re not quite ready to start your business yet, you have the option to reserve your LLC name. Submitting the necessary form and paying a $25 fee will place a 90-day hold on your desired name. Or, you can use that name on your Articles of Organization, which will register it automatically.
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.