Minnesota 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 Minnesota business names
Before a business owner can register a business entity name, he must search the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office for name availability. Minnesota has a simple search feature to help business owners find available entity names.
- Step 1: Navigate to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s search tool and enter the search criteria for the business.
- Step 2: Ensure “Business Name” is highlighted for the search type.
- Step 3: Enter the business name in the box below the tab titled ‘Business Name.’
- Step 4: Change ‘Search Scope’ to “Contains.”
- Step 5: Leave ‘Filing Status’ set to “Active.”
- Step 6: Leave ‘Include Prior Names’ set to “Exclude.”
- Step 7: Click the ‘Search’ button to lookup businesses that are an exact match or similar in name.
The system will display any exact matches and similar names. Browse through similar names to ensure that none are too similar. For example, if the business name is ABC Widgets, you can use that name if someone else is using ABC Liquors, but not if another entity is using The ABC Widgets.
How to register a business name in Minnesota
Before a business owner can begin the registration process, he must decide which entity type he wants. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes entities in different ways. For example, a corporation pays taxes on income then the business owner pays taxes on the same income again in the form of payroll taxes.
A limited liability company is a pass-through entity – the taxpayer business owner pays taxes for business income on her personal tax return.
Additionally, some entity types do not protect personal assets from creditors and lawsuits, while others do. Corporations and limited liability companies offer asset protection, while sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not.
If a business owner is unsure which entity is best for her company, she should consult with a business law attorney before registering her business with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
To register a business with the Minnesota Secretary of State:
- Step 1: Create an online account with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
- Step 2: Choose the business structure, e.g., corporation, limited liability company, limited partnership, nonprofit corporation.
- Step 3: Navigate through the questions about the business.
- Step 4: Verify that the business name is available.
- Step 5: Complete the rest of the information, review the filing, and submit the application.
- Step 6: Submit payment.
Once the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office processes the filing, the business owner will receive an email with a link to download a copy of the filing.
Minnesota trademark/DBA name search
Filing a trademark with Minnesota does not copyright your mark – it only allows Minnesota to “officially recognize” the mark. Business owners can only file trademarks by mail or walking into the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.
- Step 1: Download and complete the Trademark Application form. You will need Adobe PDF to open the form.
- Step 2: Sign the Trademark Application form.
- Step 3: Include a specimen of the mark, such as a business card or letterhead with the logo and business name.
- Step 4: Include payment of $50 payable to the MN Secretary of State if mailing the form. The fee is $70 for expedited in-person filings.
- Step 5: Mail the application or hand-deliver it to the Minnesota Secretary of State, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite N201, Saint Paul, MN 55101.
To fully protect a business’s intellectual property, file it at the federal 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.
Creating an internet presence significantly increases visibility, which means more customers. Searching for name availability with a domain registry service is as easy as entering the name in the search box.
The results will show a business owner whether the name is in use. However, if it is not available as a dot-com, it might be available as a dot-net name. We do not recommend using the dot-net name with the same business name as your customers will most likely end up on a competitor’s website.
If a domain name is not available
If the business name is unavailable, a business owner could use a similar name or create a descriptive name for the business.
If a business owner wants the domain name to be the same as the business name, she could also pick another business name if she hasn’t yet registered the name with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
We also recommend purchasing the dot-com, dot-net and dot-org names if all three are available. This prevents others from using the same business name and inadvertently “stealing” customers from your business.
Check if the social media name is available
Checking for an available name on social media is as simple as entering the business name in the search box. If no businesses with the same name show in the results, create an account for the business as soon as possible so that another individual or entity takes the name.
If the name brings up active pages, choose a different name – a business owner could use a name that describes the business or add it to the business name. For example, if ABC Widgets is in use, the business owner might use MN ABC Widgets or Best ABC Widgets.
Naming considerations for Minnesota business entities
Business owners must append certain phrases, words, or abbreviations to the business name. The information notifies businesses, government agencies, and individuals which type of business entity you registered.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have naming conventions, as Minnesota laws do not require them to register with the Secretary of State’s office. However, if either wishes to use an assumed name (‘doing business as’ or DBA name), the business must register the DBA.
To file an assumed name:
- Step 1: Download and complete the Assumed Name | Certificate of Assumed Name form.
- Step 2: Complete the form.
- Step 3: Mail or hand-deliver the form to the Minnesota Secretary of State – Business Services, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite N201, Saint Paul, MN 55101.
If mailing the application, the filing fee is $30. If hand-delivering for expedited services, the filing fee is $50.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Limited liability company.
Limited liability partnerships
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability partnership must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Registered limited liability partnership
- Limited liability partnership.
Business owners who choose to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
Nonprofit entities may add ‘corporations,’ ‘company,’ ‘incorporated,’ or ‘limited,’ but the statutes do not require it.
Businesses that choose to incorporate as a professional corporation must append one of the following at the end of the business name:
- Professional corporation.
- Professional service corporation.
- Service corporation.
- Professional association.
If the entity is a professional limited liability company, the business owner must append one of the following:
- Professional limited liability company.
If the entity is a professional limited liability partnership, the business owner must append one of the following:
- Professional limited liability partnership.
How are business licenses obtained in Minnesota?
To determine whether a business needs licenses, whether at the federal, state, county, or city level, navigate to Minnesota’s elicensing site to search for a specific industry.
Does my business need a registered agent?
Yes, if the business is registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. A registered agent ensures that the business remains in compliance with the laws and regulations for business entities, including annual reports (annual renewals in Minnesota). The registered agent also accepts service of process and other legal documents from courts and government agencies.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Your business only needs a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) if it has employees. However, banks, creditors, and vendors might require a business to obtain a FEIN, even if it has no employees. A business owner can apply for a FEIN himself or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
How do I find out if a creditor filed a lien against my business or business property?
Navigate to the Minnesota UCC filings database to search for liens against the business or business property.
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