Michigan 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 Michigan business names
When setting up a new business, the first thing a prospective business owner must do before registering is to ensure the business name is not being used. To perform a business entity search in Michigan:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Online Filing System page to access the search tool.
- Step 2: Enter the new business name in the box for “Search by Entity Name.”
- Step 3: Choose search type “Begins with.” If you choose “Exact Match,” the search tool will not bring up names that are similar.
- Step 4: Scroll down to the bottom of the form and click the “Search” button. The system will return names that include exact matches and similar names.
A new business owner must pick a name that is not the same as another business’s name. Additionally, the name cannot be similar. A business should always choose a name that is very different from other names as it is easy for customers to become confused, which could cause you to lose customers – they may end up at your competition’s store or website.
How to register a business name in Michigan
Michigan does not have a Secretary of State (SoS) for registering businesses. Instead, it requires business owners to register entities through the treasury website’s online services. To register a new Michigan business entity:
- Step 1: Navigate to Michigan Treasury Online.
- Step 2: Click “Create My User Profile.”
- Step 3: Complete the form for the user profile and follow the instructions on the screen.
Once a business owner has his account set up, he can register a new business with the state.
Michigan trademark/DBA name search
In addition to searching for registered business names, a prospective business owner should also search Michigan’s trademark database. Some businesses might not register the business, but might register a trademark or trade name.
- Step 1: Navigate to Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Online Filing System page to access the trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Choose “Mark” to search for a name or “Mark Description” to search for a description of the name.
- Step 3: Enter the search criteria, such as the business name or logo description.
- Step 4: Leave “Search Type” as “Search Anywhere.”
- Step 5: Leave “Status” as “All.”
- Step 6: Leave the date blank.
- Step 7: If applicable, choose a class.
- Step 8: Leave “Insignia Type” set to “All.”
- Step 9: Click the “Search” button.
Once the listing appears, look for a trade name or logo that is the same or similar to yours. If a business owner does not find any, he can register the trademark or trade name.
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.
Businesses will have an easier time with marketing if the domain name and the business name are the same or if the domain name is a good description of the business. Before registering an entity name with the state, check to see if a domain name is available.
Visit any of the domain name registration sites to search for the domain name you wish to use. If it is not available, a business owner should have a second choice.
Check if the social media name is available
If a business owner plans to use social media, check to see if the business name is available on the platforms. For both Facebook and Twitter, enter the business name in the search box. Social media sites do not require different names, but a business owner does not want to use a name that someone else is using – it is too easy for customers to end up on a competitor’s page.
The business name does not need to be the same as the name registered with the State of Michigan. It could be a name that describes the business. For example, Joe’s Pet Store might be the name registered with the state, but the social media handle could be Joe’s Dog Accessories.
Naming considerations for Michigan business entities
Michigan requires business owners to append certain words to the business name. The words denote the entity type.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to register with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Corporations Online Filing System. However, if either wishes to use a DBA – a ‘doing business as’ name or an assumed name, they must register that name.
To register a DBA, a prospective business owner registers with the county clerk in the location where the business is located. The business owner must still check LARA to determine name availability. Filing fees vary from county to county.
Mail application forms and payments to:
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing Bureau
P.O. Box 30054
Lansing, MI 48909
Limited Liability Companies (Michigan LLCs)
Michigan limited liability companies must add one of these words or abbreviations to the LLC name:
- Limited liability company;
If the limited liability company is a low-profit limited liability company, the business name must contain “low-profit limited liability company,” “L.3.C.” or “l.3.c.” The abbreviations a business owner can use include “L3C” and “l3c.”
A limited partnership must use “limited partnership”, “L.P.,” or “LP.”
Corporations must include the following words in their business names:
Only licensed individuals can form professional corporations. Every shareholder must be licensed in one or more professional services or an entity that is owned by one or more licensed professionals.
The name of the professional corporation must include the words “professional corporation,” or may be abbreviated as “P.C.” or “PC.”
How are business licenses obtained in Michigan?
To determine which state licenses a business needs, visit the State of Michigan’s website to search for licenses. Cities and counties often require licenses. Businesses should contact their local municipalities to learn more about local licensing.
How long can a business reserve a name?
The state must hold a reserved name – as long as it is available – for a business for six months (§450.1215).
What are the requirements for a registered agent, and is a registered agent required?
Every business must have a registered agent who is an individual, domestic corporation, LLC or foreign corporation, or LLC authorized to transact business in the state. The agent must have a Michigan address.
Do I need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Most businesses need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Sole proprietors are not required to have a FEIN, but we recommend that they have one to help with applying for credit and setting up a separate business bank account. We can obtain a FEIN for you, or you can apply for it through the IRS.
Do I have to provide a social security number to start a business?
Yes. At least one shareholder must provide a social security number.
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