When planning to start a South Dakota 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 South Dakota, 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 South Dakota 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 South Dakota 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 business ID number, 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 South Dakota 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 a South Dakota LLC Name Search
The South Dakota Secretary of State’s website provides two different options for business name searches. The one you use depends on your ultimate goal.
When you’ve come up with a great LLC name and you just need to make sure it’s not already in use, you should use the specific Name Availability Search. It’s a quick and easy process. Just enter your proposed business name and click the search button. If the name is free, you’ll see a message that reads “No Records Found,” and you’ll be allowed to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization. But if any results show up, that name is currently in use and you’ll need to come up with a different one.
On the other hand, if you’re seeking a particular business, use the Business information Search instead. Enter the full or partial business name (or its Business ID), and click the search button. You should find a list of results. Click the appropriate one and you’ll find the company’s:
- Business ID
- Legal Name
- Business Type
- Initial Filing Date
- State of Formation
- Term of Duration
- Next Annual Report Due Date
- Inactive Date (if applicable)
- Principal Office Address
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Physical Address
- Registered Agent Mailing Address
- Filing History
This search makes it easy to find and contact a particular business, or to confirm that your LLC’s information is accurate and 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 South Dakota), 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.
For foreign LLCs, the process is slightly different. Your existing business name’s availability isn’t guaranteed in South Dakota. So, in the case that it’s not available, you will need to declare an alternate name to use for your in-state business activities. To do so, just include that name on your Application for Certificate of Authority when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make a South Dakota LLC Name Distinguishable
Remember that South Dakota, like other states, places specific requirements on business names. To adhere to these rules, make sure your LLC name:
- Use the terms “limited liability company” or “limited company,” or one of the following abbreviations: “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC”
- Be distinguishable from all other business entity names on file with the South Dakota Secretary of State.
In the case that your name is unavailable, you will need to distinguish it, but how? The Secretary of State website and LLC Act don’t provide specifics, but typically, changes to the following naming elements won’t, on their own, make a name unique:
- Designators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP
- The articles “a,” “an,” or “the.”
- Conjunctions (like “and,” “but,” or “or.”)
- Special Characters
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Still, you probably won’t want to get rid of your name entirely in order to distinguish it. Try finding synonyms, rearranging words, using unique spellings, adding prefixes and/or suffixes, or adding/removing keywords. These alterations will make your name unique without completely changing it.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in South Dakota, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Once you’ve determined a name that’s both available and distinguishable, you may want to protect it. Place a name reservation for 120 days by filling the appropriate form and paying the $25 fee. If you’re ready to start your business right away, however, the better option is to use the name on your Articles of Organization, which will register it automatically.
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.