When planning to start a New Jersey 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 Jersey, 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 IncFile and LegalZoom) can perform a name search and form the business on your behalf.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for New Jersey 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 New Jersey 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, which may be required for certain 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 Jersey 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 Department of the Treasury already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform a New Jersey LLC Name Search
Got a business name or an existing business in mind? You can either check name availability or find an existing business through the Department of the Treasury’s Business Entity Name Search webpage. There are different search tools, however, depending on your goals.
There is, for example, a specific name search for name availability. So, if you’ve dreamt up a perfect business name and you’d like to see if someone beat you to it, you’ll need to search it here. Enter your name in the search bar and click “Search.” If any results pop up, your name is taken and you’ll need to either distinguish it somehow (see the next section) or come up with something different. If it returns no results, that name is available and you’re free to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
Alternatively, you might be looking for a specific existing business. In this case, you have three search options: business name, keyword, or entity ID. Choose one and enter the information for the business you’re seeking. You should see the screen populate with results. For each matching business, you’ll immediately find:
- Business Name
- Entity ID
- Home City
- Business Type
- Original Filing Date
Additionally, you can request a Status Report for any registered business, which includes its registered agent information, business addresses, filing date, Annual Report dates, officer information, and legal status. Here is a handy table that shows how to access different types of business information.
This business search can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to contact another business or just make sure that your own LLC’s information is up to date.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Name Availability 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 Jersey), 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.
The process for foreign LLCs is a little trickier. If you’ve been using an already-established name in other states, but that name is unavailable in New Jersey, you’ll need to register a “Doing Business As,” or alternate name. This will be the name your LLC uses for all business activities in the state. When you foreign qualify your business, you can designate an alternate name on the form.
How to Make a New Jersey LLC Name Distinguishable
When registering either an actual or alternate LLC name, don’t forget to follow New Jersey’s specific business requirements. This means your name must:
- Contain the words “limited liability company” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC”
- Not use any of the restricted words found here (with the exception of the ones listed above)
- Not use profanity
- Be distinguishable from the name of every other business entity on file with the Department of the Treasury
The logical next question is: what makes a name distinguishable? The New Jersey Statutes and Department of the Treasury website don’t provide specifics, but typically, changing these elements is not enough:
- Business type indicators like LLC or Ltd. (New Company LLC and New Company Ltd.. are considered the same)
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- Conjunctions like “and,” and “or”
- Singular vs. plural forms of the same word
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. However, if you find out your name is unavailable, you likely won’t want to scrap the entire thing. In order to keep a similar yet distinguishable name, try adding/removing words, using prefixes or suffixes, rearranging the words, or finding synonyms. This way, you can keep a form of your desired name while making it unique.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in New Jersey, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
You can protect your name if you aren’t ready to start your business by filing a name reservation. This costs $50 and provides 120 days of exclusive rights to your name. Alternatively, if you’re ready to start your business, using the name on your Articles of Organization will automatically register it.
Need help getting your LLC off the ground?
An LLC formation service can take care of all the details for you. Using a formation service guarantees that your filings will be completed and submitted correctly. It eliminates the stress of doing it yourself and gives you more time to develop your business plan, network, or just relax. Two popular and reliable services are IncFile and LegalZoom – either one will set your LLC up so you can focus on starting a business.