Corporate Indicators and Corporate Name Availability Search

Each US state has its own laws, procedures, costs and requirements to set up a new business entity, and each state has its own business entity filing office. In most states, this filing office is part of the state’s Secretary of State.

Main page: How to incorporate . Not a US Resident?  Go to incorporation for non us-residents.

When you create a new business entity, such as a new corporation, new LLC or new nonprofit, every jurisdiction requires that the company name be different from any other name currently existing on their register. Every jurisdiction has different standards of enforcement for making sure names are different.

How to Select a Company Name

If your new company will be a subsidiary of a foreign, parent company, you can use the same name as the parent or add “USA”.

If your US Company will be independent, then you need to choose a new name. Naming your new company is a very personal choice, and the founders need to think about what they want the name to be. A name can be changed later, if necessary, but this is an expensive and long process of filing an amendment, notifying your vendors and customers and changing all your stationery, websites and advertising.

Be imaginative when you name your new company. Your company’s name cannot be similar to an existing name on the state’s register, so be creative and original. There are a lot of names in use, so you need to provide more than one name (your first or second choice might not be available). Brainstorm a list of names, and then choose 3 to 5 names that you like.

Name Selection Rules

Must Haves:

  • Cannot be similar to other, already existing names on the register of company names (“similar” means close in spelling and pronunciation)
  • Cannot imply a product or service that is not being offered
  • Cannot be vulgar, offensive or contrary to public policy
  • Depending on the state, cannot have the name of a person who is not connected to the company, except for historical persons
  • Must have a corporate indicator

Should Haves:

  • Memorable but easy to spell
  • A positive element – let other people look at it before you choose to make sure it does not have an unwanted connotation that you didn’t think of.
  • An indication of what the company does. This may weaken your trademark application but will let potential customers know who you are and why they should use you.
  • Keep it short. This is difficult, especially if you are including a descriptive word or phrase, but long names are hard to remember.

A corporate name availability search must be completed before a corporate entity can be filed. If you company will be registered to do business in more than one state, the name should be checked in each state to make sure the company has a consistent name across the country.


Corporate Indicators

In every jurisdiction, there are lists of words used to indicate that a company is a corporationLLC (limited liability company), Professional LLC (PLLC), or non-profit corporation. In general, these indicators are:

Business Corporations
  • Corporation (Corp.)
  • Incorporated (Inc.)
  • Limited (Ltd.)
Professional Corporation
  • Professional Corporation (PC)
Limited Liability Company
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Limited Company (LC)
Professional Limited Liability Company
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Professional Limited Liability Company (PLLC or Professional LLC)
Not for Profit Corporation or Non Profit Corporation
  • Corporation (Corp.)
  • Incorporated (Inc.)
  • Limited (Ltd.)
  • Foundation (only if the organization actually is a foundation, of course)