When planning to start a Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island 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 LLC’s 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 Rhode Island 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 Secretary of State already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform a Rhode Island LLC Name Search
The Rhode Island Secretary of State has an entity search page that’s useful whether you’re checking a name’s availability or seeking a particular business.
When you find the perfect name for your business, don’t use it on your Articles of Organization right away. First, you should make sure no one else beat you to it. On the search page, choose “Search by entity name” and enter your desired name in the box. Then, hit the “Search” button at the bottom. If no results appear, congratulations! The name is free, so go ahead and reserve or use it to form your LLC. But if you see any results, your name is in use, so it’s back to the drawing board.
But this page is a Swiss army knife of search functions. You can also use it to find specific business information. Even though searching a business’ name is the most common method, you also have the option to search by officer/director, ID number, filing number, resident agent, business address, business purpose, and NAICS code. These options are helpful if you need to find a business but only know one piece of information. Click any name from the results list to find the company’s:
- Exact Name
- Entity Type
- ID Number
- Date of Organization
- Principal Office Address
- Mailing Address
- Resident Agent Name
- Resident Agent Address
- Manager Name(s) and Address(es)
- Business Purpose
- NAICS Number
- Filing History
This is particularly useful if you’re trying to contact another business or check to see if your LLC’s information is up to date.
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 Rhode Island), 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 is a bit trickier if you operate a foreign LLC. Your business has already been operating under an established name in other states, but if it’s unavailable, you’ll need to designate a separate, alternate name which you’ll use to do business in Rhode Island. When you foreign qualify your LLC, just include the alternate name on your Application for Registration.
How to Make a Rhode Island LLC Name Distinguishable
As you choose a name or alternate name, don’t forget that Rhode Island, like other states, has specific boundaries for business names. Make sure you adhere to these requirements or your Articles of Organization will be rejected. Your LLC name must:
- End with the words “limited liability company” or the upper/lower case letters “l.l.c.” with or without punctuation
- Be distinguishable from all other business entity names registered or reserved with the Secretary of State
Maybe you just found out that your name is unavailable and now you’re wondering, “how can I make it distinguishable?” Good news: the Secretary of State website offers some guidelines. Your name will NOT be considered unique if the only distinguishing factor is one of these:
- Articles (“a,” “an,” or “the”)
- Plural or singular forms of the same word
- Phonetic spelling of the same word
- An abbreviation instead of the full word
- Addition/deletion of prefixes or suffixes
- Business Type Identifiers like LLC, Ltd. Inc., or LP
- Addition of numbers
- Special Characters
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Looking for a way to distinguish your name without getting rid of the whole thing? Try adding or removing keywords, rearranging keywords, or finding synonyms. This way, you won’t need to completely scrap your original name.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Rhode Island, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
When you have a great, available name, you may want to protect it while you prepare to start your business. If so, you can hold it for 120 days by filing for a name reservation and paying the $50 fee. But if you’re ready to start your LLC, you’d be better off skipping the reservation and using that name on your Articles of Organization, which automatically locks it in.
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.