Kentucky 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 Kentucky business names
Before registering a new business in Kentucky, business owners should research the type of entity they want to form and name availability. If a business entity name is being used by someone else, a new business owner cannot use it.
To determine whether an entity name is available:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s search tool to start entering search criteria.
- Step 2: Enter the business name in the box. The search requires at least four characters.
- Step 3: Click the ‘Search Business Name’ button.
- Step 4: Review the results. If an exact match exists, the business owner must choose another business name. If similar names exist, the business owner should consider choosing another name. If the only difference is an article, such as ‘a,’ ‘an’ or ‘the,’ or the entity type, the business owner must choose another name.
How to register a business name in Kentucky
Once you find an available business name, the business owner must determine which entity he wishes to use for the business. The business owner must take several factors into consideration, including taxation and protection.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes some entities at the corporate level, then again at the personal level. Some entities are taxed only at the personal level. For example, a corporation pays corporate taxes. The business owner then pays taxes on his paycheck – which already saw taxes at the corporate level.
The IRS taxes limited liability companies on the business owners’ personal taxes.
Certain entities, such as limited liability companies and corporations, protect the business owner’s personal assets from business creditors and lawsuits in most cases. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not provide this protection.
Kentucky trademark/DBA name search
A business owner can also register a trademark or service mark. Many business owners create logos for their businesses, which they trademark so others cannot use the same or similar logos. Registering a trademark, trade name or service mark in Kentucky only protects it from being used by another person or business in Kentucky.
To search for existing trademarks or service marks:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Kentucky Trademarks and Service Marks search page.
- Step 2: Choose the search criteria type in the ‘Search by’ box. A business owner can choose from ‘Word Mark,’ ‘Description,’ ‘Registered Name,’ ‘Goods and Services,’ or ‘Registration Number.’ The searcher will most likely get the best results with ‘Description.’
- Step 3: Enter the description of the intellectual property in the ‘Search For’ box.
- Step 4: Choose ‘Match Any Keywords’ in the ‘Match’ box.
- Step 5: Choose the number of results to show.
- Step 6: Browse through the results to determine whether the trademark or service mark for the business is available.
- Step 7: Register the mark.
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.
A business can get its name and products or services in front of more people if it has an internet presence. Some people prefer social media only, but having a website gives your business more online credibility.
Before a business owner can create a website, she has to decide on a name. If she’s lucky, the business name is available.
If a domain name is not available
If a domain name is not available, the business owner has three choices:
- Choose another business name if the name is not registered with the Kentucky Secretary of State yet.
- Choose a name that aptly describes the business.
- Choose a similar name, but be sure it’s not too similar, as that could confuse customers and send them to a competitor’s website.
To search for domain names, visit any domain registry site, such as GoDaddy. Enter the business name in the search box. If the name is unavailable, the system will give you alternative names.
In some cases, the name might be unavailable as a dot-com but available as a dot-net or another extension. We do not recommend using the same name as someone else with a different extension. Customers will definitely end up on the competitor’s website.
Once you decide on a domain name, we recommend reserving the dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org extensions. A business owner might also consider reserving other extensions, such as dot-us and dot-store.
Check if the social media name is available
To search for name availability on social media platforms, enter the name in the search box. The system will bring up exact matches and similar names. If the business name is used by another individual or business, the business owner can take the same actions as with an unavailable domain name.
Naming considerations for Kentucky business entities
Kentucky requires businesses to follow certain naming conventions, including not using certain words, such as ‘bank,’ and not using a name that could confuse people into thinking the business is a state entity.
Kentucky also requires businesses to append certain phrases, words, or abbreviations to most business names.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
A business owner that chooses a sole proprietorship or general partnership doesn’t have to register with the State of Kentucky if the owners use their last names as the business names. Those who do not want to use their names can apply for a ‘doing business as’ or DBA name.
The business owner must register the DBA with the county clerk in the county where the business is located. The DBA doesn’t give the business owner any protection against business creditors and lawsuits.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company should append one of the following to the business name:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited company.
For professional limited liability companies, the business owner must append one of the following:
- Professional limited liability company.
Either type of limited liability company can abbreviate ‘limited’ as “Ltd.” and ‘company’ as “Co.”
Limited liability partnerships
If a business chooses to form as a limited liability partnership under KRS 362.555, it must append one of the following to its name:
- Registered limited liability partnership.
A registered limited liability partnership form under KRS 362.401 must use one of the following:
- Registered limited liability partnership.
- Limited liability partnership.
A business owner who chooses a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
Nonprofit corporations must also append one of the above to their names.
Professional service corporation
If a business chooses a professional service corporation, it must append “professional service corporation” or “P.S.C.” to the end of its name.
Public benefit corporation
If a business chooses a public benefit corporation, it must append one of the following to its name:
- Public benefit corporation.
- Benefit corporation.
How are business licenses obtained in Kentucky?
Kentucky does not have a general statewide business license requirement. Instead, businesses obtain licenses based on location and industry.
Does a Kentucky business need a registered agent?
Yes, if the business is registered with the Secretary of State. A registered agent ensures the company remains in compliance with state requirements. It also provides privacy by accepting service of process and other legal documents away from prying customers’ and employees’ eyes.
Do I need a Federal Employer Identification Number for my Kentucky business?
If the business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). However, some creditors, banks, and vendors might require a business without employees to obtain a FEIN to do business. A business owner can apply for a FEIN herself, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
How do I find out if a creditor filed a lien against my business property?
Navigate to the Kentucky UCC filings page to search for the business name. If a creditor filed a UCC statement, the search will display it.
Do I have to file an annual report?
Yes. Every business registered with the Secretary of State must file an annual report. If a business does not file an annual report, the business risks administrative dissolution.
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