Ohio LLC Name SearchWhen planning to start an Ohio 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 Ohio, 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 Ohio 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 Ohio 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 number, which may be necessary for future filings.

3) Statutory 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 Ohio statutory 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 statutory agent or principal address to a member or a statutory 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 an Ohio LLC Name Search

Whether you’re checking a name’s availability, looking for a specific business, or confirming your own LLC’s status, you can use the Secretary of State’s Business Name Search.

If you’ve got a perfect business name in mind but need to see if it’s already in use, choose “Business Name” or “Exact Business Name” from the Business Search dropdown box, enter your desired name, and click the search button. See any results? If so, your name is already in and you’ll need to come up with a new one. If not, congratulations! The name is free for you to reserve or use on your Articles of Organization.

But perhaps name availability isn’t your goal. Maybe you just want to find information on another business. In that case, you have a few different options. Most likely, you’ll use the company’s full or partial name to perform the search, but you can also search by prior business name, statutory agent, organizer/incorporator, or entity number. Once you’ve got your list of results, click the “Show Details” button next to any company and you’ll find its:

  • Entity Number
  • Legal Name
  • Filing Type
  • Business Status
  • Filing Date
  • Expiration Date
  • Statutory Agent Name
  • Statutory Agent Address
  • Filing History

This information makes it easy to get in touch with another business or confirm that your LLC’s information is up to date.

What if My Name Is Unavailable?

So, you went to the business 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 Ohio), 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.

Foreign entities have a slightly different process, however. If you run a foreign LLC, you’ve already been transacting business under an established name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Ohio, you will need to declare a “fictitious name.” This is simply the name that your LLC will use for all its Ohio business activities, and it’s not hard to register one. All you need to do is include it on your registration application when you foreign qualify your LLC.

How to Make an Ohio LLC Name Distinguishable

Keep in mind that Ohio, like other states, has certain business name requirements and you must adhere to them whether you’re registering a real or fictitious name. Make sure that your LLC name:

  • Uses one of the following terms: “limited liability company,” “LLC,” “L.L.C.,” “limited,” “ltd.,” or “ltd”
  • Doesn’t imply that your company is affiliated with a governmental agency
  • Doesn’t use profanity or slurs
  • Is distinguishable from all other business entities’ registered and reserved names on file with the Ohio Secretary of State

You might be wondering what the state means by “distinguishable,” especially if your name is unavailable. Fortunately, the Secretary of State website provides a few pointers. According to this page, making changes to the following elements is NOT enough to distinguish a name:

  • Punctuation
  • Contractions (can’t vs. cannot)
  • Abbreviations
  • The articles “a,” “an,” and “the”
  • Conjunctions like “and,” “but,” or “or”
  • Verb tense
  • Business type indicators like LLC or Ltd. (New Company LLC and New Company Ltd. are considered the same)

Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you don’t want to scrap your name completely but need to distinguish it, try adding letters/words, spelling out numerals, rearranging words, using unique spellings, or finding synonyms. Any of these will make your name unique while keeping it fairly similar to your original idea.

What’s Next?

What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Ohio, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.

Once you’ve discovered that your perfect business name is available, you might want to place a hold on it while you prepare to start your LLC. If so, you can file a name reservation and pay a $39 fee, which gives you exclusive rights to that name for 180 days.  However, if you’re ready to start your business right away, you’re better off simply using the name on your Articles of Organization, as this will automatically register it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Ohio?

Ohio has several restrictions regarding terminology in business names. For instance, you’ll need prior consent to use any words relating to banks and trusts, insurance agencies, cooperatives, benefit corporations, or legal professional associations. Furthermore, you can’t use any words that are a slur against an ethnic group, religion, gender, or heredity. Look here for more information.

Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my Ohio LLC?

No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Ohio and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.

How many small businesses are there in Ohio today?

The state of Ohio is home to more than 850,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Ohio is a great place to own and operate a small business.

What are the top small business resources and websites in Ohio?

The Ohio chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Ohio LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Ohio 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 Ohio?

The overall costs of operating an Ohio 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 registered 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.

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