When planning to start a Maryland 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 Maryland, 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 Maryland 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 Maryland LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the state and allow you to keep your business information updated and current.
3) Resident 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 Maryland resident 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 resident agent or principal address to a member or a resident agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the Department of Assessment and Taxation already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform a Maryland LLC Name Search
When you’re ready to search a name, head over to the Maryland Business Express website. There, you’ll find the Business Entity Search, which is quick and easy to use whether you’re seeking for name availability or a specific business.
To see if your desired name is already in use, simply enter it in the search bar and hit “Search.” Either it will return results or it won’t. If it does, someone has already reserved or registered that name and you’ll need to come up with a different one. If it doesn’t, congratulations! The name is free and you can reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
But maybe you’re searching for a specific piece of information about a particular business. If so, enter its full or partial name in the search bar. When presented with a list of results, click on the correct one and you’ll find the following information:
- Department ID Number
- Business Name
- Principal Office
- Resident Agent
- Business Type
- Business Code
- Date of Formation
- State of Formation
- Stock Status
- Close Status
You don’t necessarily need this information if you’re just looking into name availability, but it’s incredibly helpful if you’re trying to contact another business or checking up on your own.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Business Entity 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 Maryland), 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.
If you’re coming to Maryland from out of state, the process is a little trickier. If the name that you’ve established in other states isn’t available in Maryland, you’ll need to use an alternate one. The process for registering an alternate name is easy – all you need to do is provide it in the designated space on your Limited Liability Company Registration form when you foreign qualify.
How to Make a Maryland LLC Name Distinguishable
Don’t forget that, when you’re reserving or registering any LLC name in Maryland, whether actual or alternate, it must adhere to the state’s name requirements, so it must:
- Contains a signifier that confirms its status and an LLC, like “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC”
- Is available and easily distinguishable in the state’s records.
But in the case that your name is unavailable, how you do distinguish it? The Department of Assessment and Taxation doesn’t provide specific directions, but typically changing the following things won’t cut it:
- 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 identical)
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- Conjunctions like “and,” and “or”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you need to distinguish your name but don’t want to come up with an entirely new one, try using unique spellings, rearranging words, adding prefixes or suffixes, or adding/removing words. This way, you can keep s similar name to your original one.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Maryland, you can proceed to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a business name costs $25 and gives you exclusive rights to use that name for 30 days. But you don’t necessarily need to reserve a name. You can automatically register your name by using it on the Articles of Organization when you start your LLC.
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.