When planning to start a Vermont 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 Vermont, 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 IncFile and LegalZoom) can perform a name search and form the business on your behalf.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Vermont 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 Vermont 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, 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 Vermont 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 Vermont LLC Name Search
The Vermont Secretary of State offers a versatile business search tool, perfect for either checking name availability or finding a specific business.
You might have fallen in love with a particular LLC name, but before you claim it, you need to confirm that it’s available. On the business search page, choose “Exact Match” at the top, then enter your desired name in the appropriate box. Hit “Search” and one of two things will happen. Either you’ll see results – which means your name is taken – or you won’t – which means your name is free. If someone is using the name, you’ll need to come up with something different, but if not, you’re free to reserve it or use it on your Articles of Organization.
This search page also works if you’re seeking specific information about an existing business. Plus, it provides a few different search options. The most common is to use the business name (full or partial), but you can also search by Business ID, filing number, city, registered agent name, and principal name. This comes in handy if you aren’t quite sure of the business’ name but know something else about it. Click any business from your list of results to find the:
- Business Name
- Business ID
- File Number
- Business Type
- Business Status
- Date of Formation
- Business Description
- Fiscal Year Month
- Principal Office Address
- Principal Office Mailing Address
- Jurisdiction (Domestic or Foreign)
- Last Annual Report Year
- Last Report Filed
- Next Filing Due Date
- Principal Name and Address
- Registered Agent Name and Address
Whether you’re trying to contact another business or check up on your LLC’s status, this information is incredibly useful.
What If My Name Is Unavailable?
So you went to the Business 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 Vermont), 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 foreign qualifying an out-of-state LLC, however, the process is slightly different. Your company may have been operating under an established name in other states, but if that name isn’t available in Vermont, you will need to designate an alternate name. To do so, just include the alternate name on your Application for Certificate of Authority.
How to Make a Vermont LLC Name Distinguishable
Every business name reserved or registered in Vermont, whether real or alternate, must comply with the state’s specific name requirements. When considering name possibilities, know that they must:
- Use a term that identifies it’s business type, like “limited liability company” or “limited company” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” “L.C.,” or “LC.”
- Not falsely imply governmental affiliation
- Not use terms deemed “grossly offensive” by the Secretary of State
- Be unique and distinguishable from every other business entity name on record with the Secretary of State.
But what makes a name distinguishable? The Vermont Statutes state that a name must not be “deceptively similar” to any other name on the books with the Secretary of State. If your desired name is unavailable, changing the following elements are NOT enough to shed this “deceptively similar” label:
- Business type identifiers like LLC, Inc., Ltd. or LP
- Numerals vs. spelled out numbers
- Proper name spellings (Schmitt vs. Schmidt)
- Different spellings for the same word
- Singular vs. plural or possessive forms of the same word
- Articles (“a,” “an,” or “the”)
- Conjunctions like “and,” “but,” and “or”
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you want to distinguish your name without throwing it out completely, try adding/removing key words, finding synonyms, or rearranging key words. This will give you a unique name that isn’t too far from your original idea.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Vermont, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a business name in Vermont costs $20 and places a 120-day hold on your desired name. It’s a great way to protect your name while you prepare to start your LLC. But if you’re ready to start your business right away, you’d be better served to just use the name on your Articles of Organization, which will register the name automatically.
Need help getting your LLC off the ground?
An LLC formation service can take care of all the details for you. Using a formation service guarantees that your filings will be completed and submitted correctly. It eliminates the stress of doing it yourself and gives you more time to develop your business plan, network, or just relax. Two popular and reliable services are IncFile and LegalZoom – either one will set your LLC up so you can focus on starting a business.