When planning to start a Michigan 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 Michigan, 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 Michigan 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 Michigan 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 entity ID number, which is required for certain filings.
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 Michigan 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 Licensing and Regulatory Affairs already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform a Michigan LLC Name Search
Regardless of if you’re checking name availability or looking for a specific business, use the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ Business Entity Search.
Here you’ll find a few different search bars, but if you’re just hoping to see if a name is in use, you’ll only need the first one. Enter your desired LLC name in that first search bar and click the “Search” button at the bottom. See any results? That means your name is taken and you’ll need to come up with something different. If nothing shows up, the name is free and you can reserve it or using it on your Articles of Organization.
But let’s say you’re looking for a specific business. The most common way to do it is searching the business’ full or partial name. But if you’re unsure about the name, you can also search by member names, ID number, or filing number. When your results come up, click on any particular one to access the following information:
- Entity Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- ID Number
- Old ID Number
- Date of Formation
- Dissolution Date (if applicable)
- Most Recent Annual Report Date
- Resident Agent Name
- Resident Agent Address
- Registered Office Mailing Address
- Past Filings
All of this information isn’t necessary if you’re just seeking name availability, but if you’re attempting to contact another business or check up on your own, it’s invaluable.
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 Michigan), 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.
Foreign LLCs have one more step in the process, though. Since they’ve already been operating under an established name in other states, they’ll need to designate an “assumed name” if their original one is unavailable. An assumed name is simply one that you’ll use only for your business activities in Michigan. To register one, enter it in the appropriate section on your Application for Certificate of Authority when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make a Michigan LLC Name Distinguishable
Keep in mind that any name you reserve or register must adhere to Michigan’s business naming requirements, which means it must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.,” “L.C.,” “LLC,” or “LC”
- Not use any words/phrases that would misrepresent its purpose. For example, if you run a landscaping business, you shouldn’t name your LLC “Hot and Fresh Baked Goods.”
- Not use the words “corporation” or “incorporated,” or the abbreviations “corp.” or “inc.”
- Be distinguishable from all other business names reserved or registered with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
But how do you make a name distinguishable? If your name is unavailable, you might want to make the smallest change possible to distinguish it, but alterations to the following elements (on their own) won’t cut it:
- Business type designators 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. Still, you likely won’t want to scrap your original name, so here are some strategies that will make it unique without changing it entirely: using unique spellings, rearranging the words, adding prefixes or suffixes, adding/removing words, or employing abbreviations/acronyms.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Michigan, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a Michigan business name costs $25 and it holds your name for 180 days. Or, if you’re ready to start your business, you can use that name on your Articles of Organization and it will automatically be 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.