Rhode Island LLC Name SearchWhen 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, 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 Rhode Island, 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 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
  • Member or 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, 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 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 either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.

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 that 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
  • Punctuation
  • Special characters
  • Capitalization
  • Spacing

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’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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island doesn’t have too many restrictions regarding the terms you can use in your business name, but it does have a few. For instance, you can’t use terms that refer to other business entity types, and you need to avoid terms that imply an association with banking, insurance, or government entities as well.

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

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

How many small businesses are there in Rhode Island today?

The state of Rhode Island is home to more than 95,000 small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Rhode Island is a great place to own and operate a small business.

What are the top small business resources and websites in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Rhode Island LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Rhode Island District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s Commerce Corporation also has plenty of good info.

What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Rhode Island?

The overall costs of operating a Rhode Island 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 formed 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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