Whether you’re searching for the right business name or registering your LLC with the Ohio Secretary of State (SOS), we can help. We’ve got all the information you need on how to perform an Ohio business search, plus LLC naming rules, trade names, fictitious names and registering your business.
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 of Ohio. This is why it's imperative to perform an Ohio business search before you begin the filing process.
It’s not enough for your LLC name to be unique. It also cannot be similar to the name of a corporation or LLC in Ohio. In addition, you cannot use the following factors to say your name is different from the name 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 a word
- 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 form LLCs with names that:
- Are very similar to the name of a federal or state agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, Ohio Department of Taxation, Ohio 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 Ohio Business Names
In addition to the general rules listed above, the Ohio Secretary of State has some specific business naming rules. You must follow these rules if you want to name your OH business appropriately. Here is an excerpt:
A business name may not include any of the following words without prior approval from the superintendent of financial institutions: bank, banker, banking or trust, or words of similar meaning in any other language. This is true even for businesses that do not engage in banking or trust activities. For example, the name West Bank Condominiums for a condominium development company must be approved by the superintendent of financial institutions before it may be registered with the secretary of state.
All insurance agencies, whether domestic or foreign, must be registered with the Ohio secretary of state’s office. Domestic insurance agencies must register with our office prior to obtaining an insurance license from the Ohio department of insurance. Foreign insurance agencies must register with our office prior to operating in the State of Ohio. A sole proprietor operating an insurance agency under a fictitious (or assumed) name that is not or cannot be registered as a trade name must register the fictitious/assumed name with the Secretary of State.
The name of any cooperative formed under Chapter 1729 of the Ohio Revised Code must include the word or abbreviation: “cooperative,” “coop,” “co-operative,” “co-op,” “association,” “assn.,” “company,” “co.,” “incorporated,” “inc.,” “corporation,” or “corp.” In addition, no business entity shall use the word or abbreviation “cooperative,” “coop,” “co-operative,” or “co-op” as a part of its business name, unless (1) It is organized under chapter 1729; (2) it is organized and operating on a cooperative basis under Chapter 1702; (3) it is organized and operating in accordance with the cooperative laws of another state, the District of Columbia, or the United States; or (4) it is a state or federally chartered credit union.
Legal professional associations or legal clinics, forming a professional corporation under Chapter 1785 of the Ohio Revised Code must follow specific name guidelines set forth in Ohio Supreme Court Rule III. The name of a legal professional association or legal clinic must (1) end with "Co., Lpa" or (2) use the words "A Legal Professional Association" directly below the name.
How to Come Up with a Business Name
The perfect business name can be elusive. We have a complete guide to choosing the right business name, but basically, you'll want to choose a name that will:
Need help coming up with business name ideas? Try our free Business Name Generator.
Ohio Business Search
Once you have an idea of what business name you’d like to use, you’ll need to perform an Ohio entity search to make sure another business doesn’t already have that name.
Incfile offers a fast, simple and convenient Business Name Search tool to look up your proposed business name. The Ohio SOS also offers a tool that lets you search the register of LLCs and corporations in the state to see whether someone already has your desired business name.
Trademarks and Service Marks
You must be careful that your Ohio LLC name does not 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 carry out a trademark search through Incfile. If no one else is using the name, you can even register it as a trademark yourself.
Ohio DBA, Trade or Fictitious Name
You might choose to do business under a different name from your legal LLC name. In some states, this is called a DBA (doing business as), assumed name or trade name. In Ohio, it's also known as a fictitious name. The state doesn’t recognize the term "DBA," though it's generally still a commonly used term. You may choose to use a trade or fictitious name for a variety of reasons.
For example, your business might be called Ohio Vacation Rentals Holding Company, LLC, and you have a chain called Riverside Rentals. You should complete a Name Registration form to let the Ohio Secretary of State know, or you can have Incfile do it on your behalf through our Fictitious Name service.
Important: Note that in Ohio, fictitious names aren’t required to be distinguishable from other previously registered names and don’t provide any protection the way trade names do. For example, if “Susie’s Deli” is registered as a fictitious name, another corporation would be allowed to register “Susie’s Deli, Incorporated” since the names don’t need to be distinguishable.
Note: A trade name is not the same as a trademark. Learn more about trademark vs. DBA.
Register Your Business Name with the Ohio Secretary of State
Once you’ve completed your Ohio business entity search, checked availability, followed the naming rules and decided whether you need a trade or fictitious name, you can register your LLC name. There are a couple of ways to do this.