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, 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, 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 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 using it on your Certificate of Formation.
But name availability isn’t the only reason to search 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
This information can be incredibly helpful when you’re trying to contact another business or check up on your own LLC’s status and filings.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Business Entity Records, 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 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 reserve it.
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. 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.
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.