It's time to name your LLC! It's the first step really...
But like anything else that requires a government filing, there are some important rules and considerations I want you to know about.
How to use this article:
Pick your name first, then make sure it doesn't violate the rules on this page.
Include Limited Liability Company, Limited Company, or some abbreviation
Don't use someone else's name (or something deceptively similar)
Don't be offensive
Get necessary permissions
If you're thinking of trademarks, scroll to the trademarks section
You ready for the details?
Your company name needs to include the phrases "Limited Liability Company," "Limited Company" or some abbreviation. Acceptable abbreviations:
LLC (without periods)
L.L.C. (with periods)
, a Limited Liablity Company
, a Limited Company
Limited Liability Co.
Ltd. Liability Company
Ltd. Liability Co.
Ltd. Co. (my personal favorite
The placement of commas in your business name is a matter of personal preference (e.g. Company LLC vs Company, LLC), but are typically part of suggestions 3 and 4 above.
Side Note: Companies run by "professionals" (legally defined as: an individual who is licensed to practice the same professional service as the PLLC; think doctors, lawyers, therapists, etc.) must register as PLLCs (professional limited liability companies) and most just use the abbreviation "PLLC."
You are an original, baby! Your business should be too. In other words, don't use someone else's name or a name deceptively similar. You can't just change the spelling or add a new abbreviation. You have to pick your own name. Note: even if a company hasn't registered their LLC or trademark, they may still have the right to that name if they were using it before you. So no loophole-hunting here unless you want to pay costly court costs. Churches and ministries have some leeway here - I mean, how many First Baptist Churches can you count in Texas? Can you count that high? Can I count that high?
Letter of Permission.
If there's a good business reason you're registering a similar name or a name that's taken, you can file it with a Consent to Use of Similar Name from the original business.
Your name can't be offensive. Yes, this is subjective. Just think of your most sensitive friend or the way you would speak to your grandmother. If it wouldn't fly in those conversations, probably not gonna fly with the Texas Secretary of State (or the US trademark office).
Fun Story: A band with members of Asian-American descent wanted to call themselves The Slants and had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get approval. NPR covered it, and the front man, Simon Tam wrote a memoir about it.
Your business name can't imply a false government affiliation or a false or illegal purpose. This one feels pretty self-explanatory.
The Characters You Can Use.
If you can't type it on a keyboard, you can't file it with the Texas Secretary of State. Sorry, no emojis. Also, no special type treatments, like subscript. One more thing to consider - you cannot put any characters that are not numbers and letters in your EIN application with the IRS, so I also typically recommend not relying heavily on punctuation in your name. I'm talking, they won't even let you type the comma in a business name like Company, LLC (you can absolutely still use it in your Secretary of State filing and your business).
Some Industries Have More Rules.
Some industries have more laws around the naming of companies in those industries. Some require approval of the name by government agencies before filing with the Secretary of State. So if you're business would involve using a specialized industry term (e.g. insurance, bail bonds, banks, trusts, cooperatives [co-ops], long term care, engineering, architecture, public surveying, higher education, veteran services, olympics, etc), be sure to consult with an attorney.
Fun fact: lotto and lottery are prohibited terms.
Extra Trademark Considerations.
You cannot trademark a generic term for your business. If you sell bandages, you will have a hard time trademarking Bandages LLC. In fact, when a brand name (like Band-Aid) becomes adopted as the generic term for an item, those companies risk losing their trademark. So get creative. The trademark office typically analyzes names on a sliding scale:
Generic: nope (bandage)
Descriptive: not at first and protected very narrowly (e.g. architecture, on it's own not protectable until you get famous with that name, and then others may still be able to incorporate the word. this includes common last names like Smith)
Suggestive: protectable, based on subjective opinion of reviewer, afforded more protection than Descriptive (e.g. "bubbly" for a brand of soda)
Arbitrary: protectable and afforded a broad scope of protection (a known word that has nothing to do with your business, like Apple as a name for computers)
Fanciful: protectable and afforded the broadest scope of protection (a made up word)
Side Note: when you file a trademark application, you have to select the category of business in which you want the trademark to be protected and will only be protected in that category. So your name will be compared to other trademarks in your category.
And that's it! No big deal, right?
Once you've got it, let's register your LLC so no one else can take it. Just click here to get started.
Author: Ashley Hymel, attorney and cofounder of The Corporate Legal Ltd. Co, published 05.27.2023.