Hawaii Business Name Search
Even with the help of business services through the Secretary of State, registering a business has financial consequences. Always discuss business setup with a business attorney.
How to search Hawaii business names
Before a prospective business owner can register a business name, he must complete a name availability search to determine whether the name is available. Hawaii makes it simple to complete an entity name search.
Step 1: Navigate to the business name search tool on the Hawaii.gov Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ webpage.
Step 2: Change the search mode to the left of the search box to “Contains.”
Step 3: Enter the business name in the search box.
Step 4: Click the “Search” button.
If the business name does not come up, double-check it by searching again, but change the search mode to the left of the search box to “Begins With.” If the system does not find a name that is the same or similar to the name of the new business, a business owner can reserve or register the name.
If the name is already taken or other names are too similar, choose a different business name and complete a new business entity search.
When starting a new business, business owners should also search for existing trademarks, even if they will not trademark the name or logo. Another business could have registered a trade name that is not registered with the State. The instructions for searching for a trade name are the same as searching for a company name as the trademark database is the same dataset.
While registering for a trademark is not mandatory, we recommend filing a trademark for the business name and logo. However, registering for a trademark in Hawaii does not protect the business name throughout the United States. It only protects the name or logo in Hawaii.
If a business owner wishes to determine whether a business name or logo has been trademarked at the federal level, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Before a business registers its name, the business owner should take additional steps to ensure that the name is available for domain and social media use. While the domain name and social media accounts or pages do not have to have the same name as the business, it is better for marketing purposes. If another person or entity is already using the name, a prospective business owner can choose another name to register at the state level or use a different name that describes the business for the domain name and social media accounts.
Check if the domain name is available
Even when a business is a brick-and-mortar business, it is good marketing to have an online presence. If possible, choose a name that is available with the State and with a domain registry. If the name a business owner wants is available with the State but not with a domain registry, the business owner can use another name – preferably one that describes the business.
A prospective business owner can search for domain name availability at any of the domain registries, such as GoDaddy, online.
If a domain name is not available
If a name is not available as a dot com but is available as a dot net or another extension, we recommend choosing another name. Customers could easily confuse the two online presences and end up at a business’s competitor.
Check if the social media name is available
A business should always have a social media presence. It’s a free form of advertising. A prospective business owner can search for an available name by entering the name in the search box of sites such as Twitter and Facebook. If the name is not available, the business owner could use a descriptive name.
As with the domain, do not choose a name that is too similar to another name, as you might end up advertising for another company.
How to register a Hawaii business entity
To register a business or a trademark or reserve an entity name in Hawaii, a prospective business owner must create an account on the Hawaii Business Express website.
Once the business owner creates an account, follow the instructions to reserve a name or register a business or trademark.
Businesses can also buy documents, track filings, check due dates, and view purchased documents from their dashboards.
Businesses can also renew trade names and change an existing business name through the online portal, thus saving the time of mailing documents to the State of Hawaii.
Naming considerations for Hawaii business entities
Hawaii has naming conventions for the different types of entities as follows:
Sole proprietorships do not need to register with the state unless they wish to register a ‘doing business as’ (DBA) name or trade name. Search the database as instructed above for locating trademarks and trade names.
Alternatively, a business owner can complete Form T-1 to register a trade name. Trade names are registered with the Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Businesses must renew trade names every five years, six months prior to the expiration of the trade name. The filing fee is $50 for the initial and subsequent registrations.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A limited liability company name must contain one of the following words or abbreviations:
- Limited liability company;
- Ltd. liability company;
- Ltd. liability co.
Limited Liability Partnerships
Hawaii has two types of limited partnerships: A limited partnership and a limited liability limited partnership. Limited partnerships must include “limited partnership,” L.P.” or “LP.”
A limited liability limited partnership must include the following words or abbreviations in the business name:
- Limited liability limited partnership;
A limited partnership cannot contain any of the above words. A limited liability limited partnership cannot contain “limited partnership,” “LP,” or “L.P.”
A corporation must contain one of the following words or abbreviations in the business name:
How are business licenses obtained in Hawaii?
Hawaii does not require businesses to have a general business license. However, counties and cities might require business licenses. Additionally, certain professionals must be licensed. To learn more about business licenses in Hawaii, visit the county or city location of the business and the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional and Vocational Licensing Division.
Does my business need a registered agent?
Yes. A registered agent is someone who is in the office during business hours to accept documents from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, court documents, and other legal documents. A business owner can be his own registered agent, or he can ask a company to be the registered agent for the business.
Can I email or fax my documents instead of using the online service?
Yes. However, we recommend creating an online account to file. If documents are not legible, the application will be denied. Additionally, you must provide credit card information when filing via email or fax, which is not a secure method to transmit personal financial information. Email filings to [email protected] or fax to (808) 586-2733.
How long are name reservations good?
A name reservation is good for 120 days. If a prospective business owner is not ready to register a business name but wants to “save” it, she can reserve the name. However, when the name expires after 120 days, another person or entity can use the name unless you register it before it expires.
Will the Department register a name I choose if it is in use?
The Department only checks to see if the name a prospective business owner chooses is substantially identical to another name. It is the business owner’s responsibility to ensure that he is not using a name that is too similar or identical to another business. An owner of a similar or same name can sue you, even if the Department registers the name to you.
Where can I find more information on the various types of entities available?
A prospective business owner can find more information at IRS.gov or at the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Various entities are taxed differently and have various levels of personal protection from lawsuits and creditors. If the business owner is unsure which entity to choose, she should consult a business law attorney.