When planning to start an Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma, 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 Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma 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 Filing Number, which may be necessary 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 Oklahoma 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 an Oklahoma LLC Name Search
You’ve got a business name in mind. Maybe it’s one that you intend to use on your own LLC, and maybe it’s the name of an existing business you’d like to contact. The Secretary of State website has multiple business search options for you to check name availability and find specific companies.
You may be sitting on a great LLC name, but you can’t use it until you determine that it’s available. To do so, enter it in the Name Availability Search. If the search produces any results, someone’s already using the name and you’ll have to come up with a new one. If nothing shows up, the name is free and you can reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
Finding an existing business requires a different page: the Business Entities Search, which offers a few different options. The most common is to search by the company’s full or partial name, but you can also click “Advanced Search” to use its filing number, registered agent name, or the name of another affiliated person. These other options can come in handy if you only have one piece of business information. Regardless of which search you use, you can click any result to access the company’s:
- Legal Name
- Filing Number
- Name Type
- Business Status
- Business Type (LLC, Corporation, etc.)
- State of Jurisdiction
- Formation Date
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
When you’re looking to contact another business or check up on your own, this information can be incredibly helpful.
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 Oklahoma), 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.
Coming to Oklahoma from out of state? If so, your LLC will have a slightly different process. You’ve already been operating under an established name in other states, but if that name is unavailable in Oklahoma, you’ll need to register a “fictitious name” instead. This is just the name your LLC will use for its in-state business activities. When foreign qualifying your business, attach a Fictitious Name Report (or a statement from an LLC manager adopting the name) to your Application for Registration.
How to Make an Oklahoma LLC Name Distinguishable
When considering options for your real or fictitious name, be sure to review Oklahoma’s business name requirements, which state that your LLC name must:
- Use the words “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or one of the following abbreviations: “LLC”, “LC”, “L.L.C.”, or “L.C.”. The word “limited” may be abbreviated as “LTD.” and the word “Company” as “CO.”
- Available for use and distinguishable from every other business name registered or reserved with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office.
Okay, so your name has to be distinguishable. What does that mean? The term may seem broad and nebulous, and the Secretary of State doesn’t provide specific distinguishability guidelines, but typically, changes to the following elements will NOT make your name unique:
- Designators like LLC or L.L.C (New Company LLC and New Company L.L.C. are considered the same)
- Articles like “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- The words “and,” and “or”
- Special characters
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. But if your name is unavailable, you probably don’t want to get rid of it completely. Try adding or removing keywords, finding synonyms, adding prefixes or suffixes, or using unique spellings. These strategies will distinguish your name while keeping it fairly 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 Oklahoma, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving an Oklahoma business name costs $10 and it will hold your name for 60 days. Filing a name reservation, though, is best if you’re not ready to start your LLC yet. If your business ready to go, skip the reservation and use the name your Articles of Organization. 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.