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, 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 Maryland, 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 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 for 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 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 the members or managers of another business or checking up on your own.
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Business Entity Search, 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 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 either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.
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:
- Contain a signifier that confirms its status and an LLC, like “limited liability company,” “limited company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC”
- Be 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 is. 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.
✔ 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 Maryland?
Maryland has very few guidelines for restricted terms. In fact, all we could find was this section of the Maryland Code that says you can’t use terms that imply your business was formed for a purpose other than the one stated in your Articles of Organization.
Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my Maryland LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Maryland and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Maryland today?
The state of Maryland is home to more than 475,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Maryland is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Maryland?
The Maryland chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Maryland LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maryland 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 Maryland?
The overall costs of operating a Maryland 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.