When planning to start a Texas 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 Texas, 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 Texas 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 Certificate of Formation and started your Texas 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 file number, which is 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 Texas 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 Texas LLC Name Search
When it’s come time to search a business name, there are a couple of different paths you can take, depending on your ultimate goal.
The Secretary of State website has a Taxable Entity Search, which will tell you if any currently registered businesses are using that name. However, this search doesn’t include reserved names, so it’s not 100% complete. Instead, you should either call (512) 463-5555 (dial 7-1-1 for relay services) or email your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org. Either will provide a quick response so you can begin thinking up a new name if it’s taken, or reserving/registering it if it’s not.
You will want to use the Taxable Entity Search, however, if you’re looking for a particular existing business. You can search by fill or partial entity name, Tax ID number, or file number. On the list of results, click “Details” next to any business to access its:
- Legal Name
- Texas Taxpayer Number
- Mailing Address
- Right to Transact Business in Texas
- State of Formation
- Registration Date
- File Number
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Office Address
- Manager or Member Information
This information is extremely useful when you’re trying to reach another business, and it allows you to confirm that your own LLC’s information is up to date.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you contacted the Secretary of State, requested your name’s availability, received a response, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Texas), 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.
When expanding to Texas from another state, the process is a little different. Your foreign LLC has already been operating under an established name elsewhere, but if that name is unavailable in Texas, you will need to register an assumed name instead. After registering the name, include it on your Application for Registration when you foreign qualify your LLC.
How to Make a Texas LLC Name Distinguishable
Keep in mind that your LLC must adhere to Texas’ business name requirements. You don’t want your name reservation or Certificate of Formation to be denied based on a name discrepancy, so make sure your name:
- Contains a term of organization that identifies it as an LLC (like Ltd. or LLC)
- Doesn’t falsely imply governmental affiliation
- Isn’t “grossly offensive”
- Doesn’t use any of the state’s “restricted words” (find them here)
- Be distinguishable from all other business names registered or reserved with the Secretary of State.
If you discover that your name is unavailable, you might wonder: how do I make it distinguishable? You likely don’t want to throw out your original idea completely and want to find a small change to make it unique. However, altering the following elements is NOT enough to distinguish a name:
- Business type designators like LLC, Ltd., Inc., or LP
- Articles (“a,” “an,” and “the”)
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. Instead, try replacing key words, finding synonyms, using different spellings, rearranging key words, add prefixes/suffixes, or use a different language. Any of these changes will give you a distinguishable name that isn’t far from your original.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Texas, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Certificate of Formation.
When you’ve found an available, distinguishable name, but you aren’t ready to start your business, you may want to reserve it. Placing a Texas name reservation costs $40 and holds your name for 120 days. Alternatively, if your LLC is ready to go, skip the reservation and use the name on your Certificate of Formation – 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.