When planning to start an Indiana 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 Indiana, 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 Indiana 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 Indiana 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 Business ID, 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 Indiana 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 Indiana LLC Name Search
When you’re ready to start searching business names, navigate to the INBiz website, which contains a comprehensive Business Search tool, useful for both name availability and existing business searches.
To see if a name’s already in use, enter it in the “Business Name” search bar and click the Search button. Any results? If not, the name is free and you can reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization. If so, the name is taken and you’ll need to find a way to distinguish your own.
There are several different ways to search for a specific existing business. In the “Business Name” search bar, you may search a full or partial name. Or, if you know a company’s Business ID, Filing Number, Registered Agent Name, or Principal Name, you can search by any of those subjects as well. There’s even an advanced search option where you can enter the business type, status, and/or address to further narrow your results. Once you have a list of results, click on any business to find its:
- Business Name
- Business ID
- Entity Type
- Business Status
- Creation Date
- Inactive Date (if applicable)
- Principal Office Address
- Expiration Date
- Jurisdiction of Formation
- Business Entity Report Due Date
- Principal Name
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
If you’re simply searching name availability, you won’t need this information, but it can come in handy if you’re attempting to contact another business or check up on your own.
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 Indiana), 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 business expanding to Indiana from another state? Foreign entities have a different naming process. If you’ve been operating under a particular name in another state but that name is unavailable in Indiana, you’ll need to register an “alternate name.” This is the name that your LLC will use for all your Indiana business activities. Simply indicate your alternate name on the Foreign Registration Statement when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make an Indiana LLC Name Distinguishable
Every name on file with the Indiana Secretary of State, whether actual or alternate, must meet the state’s LLC naming requirements. They state that your name must:
- Use a term that indicates its business type, like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC”
- Be distinguishable and available among all other businesses registered with the Secretary of State.
But what, exactly, makes a name distinguishable? If your desired name is unavailable, you’ll need to either come up with a completely new one or find a way to make your current one unique. The Secretary of State and stat code don’t provide specific factors that make a name distinguishable, but typically, the following changes are NOT enough:
- Designators like LLC or L.L.C (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- The words “and,” and “or”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If your desired name is unavailable, you’ll need to distinguish it, but you likely won’t want to lose it completely. Try rearranging the words, using unique spellings, adding certain prefixes or suffixes, finding synonyms, adding/removing words, or using acronyms. This way, you can make your name unique while keeping it similar to the original.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Indiana, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
You have the option to reserve your LLC name if you want to protect it while you prepare to start your business. Filing a name reservation costs $10 and will hold your name for 120 days. If you’re ready to start your business, however, you can just 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.