When planning to start a New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire, 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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire 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 Business ID, which you may need 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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire LLC Name Search
The New Hampshire Secretary of State provides a quick and easy search tool, which is effective whether you’re checking a name’s availability or looking for a specific piece of business information. Head over to the Business Search page and you’ll be ready to start your search.
If you’ve got a potential LLC name in mind but you need to see if someone beat you to it, select “Business Name” on the left side of the screen and “Exact Match” from the top. Then enter your desired name in the search bar, enter the captcha code, and hit “Search.” Do you see any results? If so, your name is already in use, so it’s back to the drawing board. If not, congratulations! You’re free to reserve that name or use it on your Certificate of Formation.
Checking name availability, however, isn’t the Business Search’s only function. You can also find a lot of useful information about existing companies. Simply enter a business’ full or partial name in the search bar, select any of the search options from the top, click “Search.” Select any of the results and you’ll find the following information:
- Business Name
- Business ID
- Business Type (LLC, LP, etc.)
- Business Status
- Creation Date
- Principal Office Address
- Mailing Address
- State of Incorporation
- Last Report
- Next Report Year
- Business Purpose
- Principals Information (name and address)
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
- Trade Name and Trademark Information
When you’re looking to get in touch with another business, this information can be incredibly helpful. It’s also a great way to check up on your own business to ensure that you have the most updated and accurate information on file.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Business 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 New Hampshire), 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.
Is your business expanding to New Hampshire from out of state? The process is a little different for foreign LLCs. Your business already has a name, and you’ve been using it in other states. But if that name isn’t available in New Hampshire, you’ll need to designate a different one. Fortunately, doing so isn’t complicated. If you need a name to operate under in New Hampshire, provide one on your Application for Registration when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make a New Hampshire LLC Name Distinguishable
Like other states, New Hampshire has a set of requirements for business names, and you must adhere to them, whether you’re establishing a new or an alternate name. This means that your LLC name must:
- Use a term that identifies its business type, like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” or a similar abbreviation.
- Be available and distinguishable from every other business entity name registered or reserved with the Department of State.
Distinguishable may seem like a broad and nebulous term, but the LLC Act Section 304-C:32 spells out guidelines for distinguishability. According to this section, making changes to the following elements will NOT make a name unique:
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the”
- Plural vs. singular forms of the same word
- Phonetic spelling of the same word
- Suffixes and prefixes
- Business type indicators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP
- Punctuation or special characters
- Arabic vs. Roman numerals (4 vs. IV)
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Although, if your name is unavailable, you likely don’t want to scrap the entire thing, so you’ll want to distinguish it subtly but not completely. Try finding synonyms, using unique spellings, adding or removing words, or rearranging words. This way, you can keep a name similar to the original.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in New Hampshire, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Certificate of Formation.
When you’ve found an available name, you may want to claim and protect it while you prepare to start your LLC. If so, you can reserve it for 120 days by filing an Application for Reservation of Name and paying a $15 fee. Or, if you’re ready to start your business right away, just provide that name on your Certificate of Formation – this 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.