When planning to start a Kentucky 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 Kentucky, 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky 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 organization number, 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky LLC Name Search
The Kentucky Secretary of State offers a few different name search options. The one you use depends on your goals, but they’re all available on the Secretary of State Online Services page.
There’s a specific Name Availability Search if you’re just checking to see if anyone’s already using your name. All you need to do is enter your desired name in the search bar, click “Continue,” and see if it returns any results. If it does, your name is already in use and it’s back to the drawing board. If not, your name is available! You’re free to reserve it or use it when filing your Articles of Organization.
Or, you may be searching for a specific business. In this case, you can use one of four other search tools. The most common option is simply searching by the business name. However, if you don’t know the name, you can also search by organization number, current officer name, founding officer name, or registered agent name.
These options make it possible for you to find a particular business even if you only have one piece of information about it. Once you have a list of results, click any of the business names and you’ll find the following information:
- Organization Number
- Profit or Non-Profit
- Company Type
- Status (active or inactive)
- Standing (good or bad)
- State of Formation
- File date
- Organization Date
- Last Annual Report
- Principal Office Address
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- Current Officers
- Images of Previous Filings
- Assumed Names
- Activity History
This is a lot of information, and you likely won’t need all of (especially if you’re just checking name availability), but it’s good to know where you can find it.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Name Availability 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 Kentucky), 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 from out of state? The process for foreign entities is a little different. You already have an established LLC name and you’ve been using it in other states. But if that name is unavailable in Kentucky, you’ll need to use a “fictitious name” instead. A fictitious name is one that you designate when you foreign qualify in Kentucky and that your LLC only uses in the state.
How to Make an Kentucky LLC Name Distinguishable
When choosing your real or fictitious name, remember that you must adhere to Kentucky’s business name requirements. So, your LLC name must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviation “LLC” or “LC”
- Not use the word “cooperative”
- Be unique and distinguishable from all other business entity names on record with the Secretary of State
But what does it mean for a name to be “distinguishable”? Good question. If your business name is unavailable, you’ll likely consider making a small change to distinguish it from similar names. Be aware, though, that altering the following things are not enough to make a name unique:
- Business type indicators like LLC, Ltd., LP, or Inc. (New Company LLC, New Company Ltd., New Company LP, and New Company Inc. are all considered the same)
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- Conjunctions (“and,” “or,” “as,” “but,” “because,” “however”)
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Still, you probably don’t want to scrap your name completely. Try coming up with synonyms, adding or removing words, using unique spellings, adding prefixes or suffixes, using acronyms, or rearranging words. These changes are enough to distinguish your name but won’t make it into something entirely different.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Kentucky, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a Kentucky business name costs $15 and places a 120-day hold on your name. Filing a name reservation is optional, and if you’re ready to start your business, you can simply use the name on your Articles of Organization and it will be automatically registered.
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.