Illinois Business Name Search (Step-by-Step Guide)
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 for Illinois business names
Prospective business owners must search the Illinois Secretary of State to determine name availability before reserving or registering a new entity name. Illinois’ business entity search is a simple search that allows a business owner to search corporate and limited liability corporations at the same time.
- Step 1: Navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s search tool.
- Step 2: Ensure the radio button for “Corporate and LLC” is selected.
- Step 3: Click the ‘Submit’ button.
- Step 4: A new page opens. Choose the search type “Name” by ensuring the radio button is selected.
- Step 5: Enter the business entity name in the search box.
- Step 6: Click the “Continue” button.
The system will tell you whether it found matches based on the search criteria. If the system finds results, it displays exact matches and similar names. A business owner must choose another name if there are exact matches.
Additionally, a business owner may not use a similar name. For example, if the only difference is a word such as ‘a,’ ‘an,’ or ‘the’, the business owner cannot use the name. If the only difference is the entity type, the business owner cannot use the name.
To search for a limited partnership or a limited liability partnership, navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s partnership page and click the “Search” button.
How to register a business name in Illinois
- Illinois allows prospective businesses to file online or via paper.
- Each entity type has its own filling page.
Illinois trademark/DBA name search
Prospective business owners should also search trademarks, as a business owner might file a trademark for a trade name or trademark. To search for trademarks:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Under “Choose the Type of Search,” select the radio button for ‘Name of Mark.’
- Step 3: Under “Choose a Search Method,” select the radio button for ‘By Partial Name.’
- Step 4: Enter the search term in the search box.
- Step 5: Click the ‘Submit’ button.
If another business did not register the search terms, the system would show that the term was not found. If the system locates terms, it shows exact matches and similar terms. Business owners should check all of the search results to ensure that his business trademark is significantly different from other trademarks.
If a business owner wishes to register a trademark in Illinois, the registration protects the intellectual property only in the state of Illinois – not at the national level. 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.
Check if the domain name is available
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.
Most businesses today have an internet presence, if not for an online store, for marketing purposes. Prospective business owners can check domain registries such as GoDaddy to determine whether the chosen business name is available.
If a domain name is not available
Often a business name is unavailable because another individual or business from another state is using the name. In this case, the business owner has three choices:
- Pick a new business name if the business owner wants the domain name and business name to be the same. For example, if ABCWidgets.com is unavailable, do not choose ABCWidgets.net.
- Choose a similar name. However, don’t make it too similar, as that will confuse customers.
- Choose a descriptive name that describes the business’s products or services.
Check if the social media name is available
Business owners should also check social media platforms. Enter the business name into the search box on the platform. If the business comes up, another person is using the name. While the business owner could choose a very similar name, it is likely to confuse customers. Choose one of the options outlined for domain names.
Naming considerations for Illinois business entities
Each entity type also has its own naming conventions. When creating a new entity, choose the entity type. If you are not sure which entity type is best for your business, contact a business law attorney. Some entities are pass-through entities, which means the Internal Revenue Service taxes the individual business owner or partner, while others have double taxation, such as corporations.
Additionally, certain entities offer more personal protection than others. For example, if someone sues a sole proprietor, that business owner’s personal assets are not protected from the lawsuit. However, if someone sues a corporation, the plaintiff can only sue the business as long as the business owner did not comingle funds or take other actions to break the corporate veil.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships might not have to register for anything, depending on whether they have employees or meet other requirements. If either uses a ‘doing business as’ or DBA name, they must register the name with the County Clerk.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A limited liability company must have one of the following in its name:
- Limited liability company.
If the limited liability company is organized as a low-profit limited liability company, the business owner must use “L3C.”
To file a limited liability company, navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s LLC registration page. Review the information, then click “File” at the bottom of the page. Follow the instructions to file an LLC online.
A limited partnership has a general partner and limited partners who invest money and have limited liability. The limited partners are not involved in the daily management of the company. A limited partnership must include the words “limited partnership” or the abbreviation “L.P.” A business owner can find the forms to create a limited partnership on the Secretary of State’s website.
Limited liability partnerships
A limited liability partnership must include one of the following:
- Limited liability partnership.
- Registered limited liability partnership.
A business owner can find the forms to create a limited liability partnership on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website.
A corporation, whether for-profit or nonprofit, must contain one of the following:
Business owners can also use abbreviations of those words.
To register a corporation, navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s corporations page and click the “File” button at the bottom of the page.
To register a nonprofit corporation, navigate to the Secretary of State’s Not for Profit page and click the “File” button at the bottom of the page.
How are business licenses obtained in Illinois?
Illinois does not have a statewide business permit. However, it does have several taxes and permits that businesses must pay. Navigate to the business services search page to locate permits, licenses, and taxes that businesses must-have.
Does my business require a registered agent?
Yes. All businesses registered with the Illinois Secretary of State must have a registered agent. The registered agent is someone in the office during all business hours. It accepts service of process, other legal documents, and documents from the Secretary of State and forwards them to the business owner in a timely manner.
Does my business require a Federal Employer Identification Number?
If your business has employees, you must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Additionally, banks, creditors, and some vendors might require sole proprietors and general partnerships to obtain a FEIN, even if they do not have employees.
How do I find out if a creditor put a lien on my business or business property?
Navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s UCC filing and search page. A business owner can search for UCC filings and federal tax liens against a business.
How does a business file an annual report?
How do I authenticate a Certificate of Good Standing?
Navigate to the Illinois Secretary of State’s authentication page. Enter the authentication number, then press “Continue.”
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