Whether you’re searching for the right business name or registering your LLC with the Massachusetts Secretary of State (SOS), we can help. We’ve got all the information you need on how to conduct a Massachusetts business search, plus info on LLC naming rules, DBAs and registering your business.
Note: Most states have a Secretary of State who administers business formation and incorporation, among other duties. Because Massachusetts is technically a commonwealth and not a state, this government entity is called the Secretary of the Commonwealth. We may use both terms interchangeably throughout this guide in an effort to accommodate those who may be unaware of this difference and are looking to perform a Massachusetts Secretary of State business search, or simply seeking information from the Massachusetts SOS.
General Rules for LLC Names
These rules typically apply to all LLCs, no matter what state they are formed in.
The business name you have chosen cannot be used by any other LLC or corporation in the state. This is why it's imperative to perform a MA SOS business search.
It’s not enough for your LLC name to be unique. It also cannot be similar to the name of an existing corporation or LLC in Massachusetts. For example, you cannot use the following factors to say your name is different from that of another business:
- Suffixes, such as Corporation, Company, Incorporated, Incorporation, Limited, Corp., Co., Inc., Ltd., LLC, etc.
- Definite articles, such as “A,” “An,” or “The”
- The conjunction "And," or “&"
- The singular, plural or possessive forms of words
- Abbreviations, punctuation, symbols, fonts, typefaces, etc.
All LLCs must have the words “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.” or “LLC” in their names, normally at the end of the name.
Most states will not allow you to use business names that:
- Are very similar to the name of a federal or MA agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, Massachusetts Comptroller, Massachusetts Police, Treasury, etc.)
- Suggest affiliation with a federal or state agency or organization
- Use the term “Olympic” or any terms that are trademarks of the International Olympic Committee
- Imply a purpose that would be illegal for your business to carry out
Specific Rules for Massachusetts Business Names
In addition to the general rules listed above, Massachusetts has a few specific business naming statutes. You'll need to follow these rules to name your business appropriately.
One unique Massachusetts rule, for example, is that your business name may contain the name of a member or manager. For example, your business could be named "Mary Smith's Accounting Services, LLC."
How to Come Up with a Business Name
The perfect business name can be tricky to find. We have a complete guide to choosing the right business name, but basically, you'll want to select a name that will:
Need help coming up with business name ideas? Try our free Business Name Generator.
Massachusetts Business Search
Once you have an idea of the business name you’d like to use, you’ll need to complete a Massachusetts business entity search to make sure another business isn’t already using it.
You can also use our simple and convenient Business Name Search tool to look up your proposed business name. The Mass Secretary of the Commonwealth also has a tool that lets you search the state's business registry to see whether someone already has your desired business name.
Trademarks and Service Marks
You must be careful that your Massachusetts LLC name doesn’t infringe on the trademark or service mark of another business. The easiest way to make sure your proposed business name doesn’t do that is to complete a trademark search through Incfile. If no one else is using it, you can even register it as a trademark yourself.
You may do business as a different name from your legal LLC name. In some states, this is called a trade name, fictitious name or assumed name. In Massachusetts, it's called a "doing business as" or simply a DBA. You may decide to use a Massachusetts DBA for a variety of reasons.
For example, your LLC may be called Massachusetts Automotive, LLC, and you have a chain called Minuteman Auto Repair. You should file a Massachusetts "doing business as" to let the Corporations Division know. In Massachusetts, you do that by filing a form with the town clerk in the town where your business is located, so fees may vary. Or you can have Incfile do it on your behalf through our DBA service.
Note: A trade name is not the same as a trademark.
Register Your Business Name with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth
Once you’ve completed a Massachusetts business search, checked availability, followed the naming rules and decided whether you need a DBA, you can register your LLC name. There are a couple of ways to do this.