When planning to start a Maine 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, and 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 Maine, and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Maine 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 Certificate of Formation and started your Maine 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 Charter Number, which may be necessary 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 Maine 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 a Maine LLC Name Search
Whether you’re searching for name availability or specific business information, the Maine Secretary of State offers a quick and easy solution: the Corporate Name Search.
For name availability, enter your desired name in the search bar and click the button below. One of two things will happen: either a list of results will appear or not. If any businesses show up, your name is already in use and you’ll need to brainstorm some other options. If it doesn’t yield any results, your name is free and you can reserve it or use it on your Certificate of Formation.
But name availability isn’t the only reason to search for a business name. You might be looking for a specific business. If so, you can use the same process. Just enter the business’ full or partial name (or charter number) in the search bar and click the button. You’ll likely see a list of results, and you can click any of them to access the following information:
- Legal Name
- Charter Number
- Filing Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- Status (Good Standing, Dissolved, etc.)
- Filing Date
- Expiration Date
- State of Jurisdiction
- Other Names
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- List of FIlings
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Business Entity Records, plugged in your desired name, hit search, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Maine), 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 either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.
For foreign LLCs who are expanding to Maine from another state, the process is a little different. Previously, your business had been operating under an established name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Maine, you will need to designate a “fictitious name.” This is a name that you will use only in the state. When foreign qualifying, provide the name on your Statement of Foreign Qualification and it will be registered.
How to Make a Maine LLC Name Distinguishable
Keep in mind that Maine, like other states, has specific requirements for business names, and they apply to real and fictitious names alike, so your LLC name must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or one of the following abbreviations: “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC”
- Not use obscene language
- Not promote abusive or unlawful activity
- Not suggest an association with public institutions
- Be completely distinguishable and available in the Secretary of State’s records (see here for distinguishability rules)
That last point can be a little tricky. After all, what does it mean for a name to be “distinguishable”? We can narrow the definition by looking at what isn’t distinguishable. Making changes to the following items will NOT distinguish your name:
- Business type indicators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP (New Company LLC, New Company Ltd., New Company Inc., and New Company LP are all considered the same)
- The words “and” and “the” along with any symbols that represent them
- Special characters
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. But if you’re looking for ways to make your name unique without changing it completely, try using different spellings, coming up with synonyms, rearranging the words, adding prefixes or suffixes, or adding/removing words. This way, you won’t have to scrap your name completely if it’s unavailable.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Maine, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Certificate of Formation.
To protect your LLC name while you prepare to start your business, you can file a name reservation. Reserving a business name costs $20 and will hold your name for 120 days. Or, if you’re ready to start your business right away, you can use that name on your Certificate of Formation, which will automatically register it.
✔ Get The Best LLC Service
If you want to use a service to form your LLC, there are dozens of options. We invite you to check out our full list of the best available LLC formation services, but we’ll also share a couple of the most popular options below.
ZenBusiness (Starts at $0)
ZenBusiness is the best LLC formation service available. That said, ZenBusiness receives outstanding customer feedback, with more than 9,800 reviews available online and very few negative reviews among them.
LegalZoom (Starts at $79)
For most people, LegalZoom is the first name that comes to mind for LLC services due to their massive advertising budget. LegalZoom’s pricing and features may not compete on an equal playing field with ZenBusiness, but its brand power is notable and it receives good customer reviews.
For a side by side comparison, check out our LegalZoom vs ZenBusiness review.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Maine?
Maine doesn’t have too many restrictions when it comes to business names. There are four general categories of restricted words: obscene language, promoting abusive or unlawful activity, suggesting an association with public institutions, and violating “any other provision of the law of this State with respect to names.”
Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my Maine LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Maine and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Maine today?
The state of Maine is home to more than 140,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Maine is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Maine?
The Maine chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Maine LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maine District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s small business resource page also has plenty of good info.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Maine?
The overall costs of operating a Maine LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Form My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be formed by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.