Mississippi Business Name Search
Even with the help of business services through the Secretary of State (SoS), registering a business has financial consequences. Always discuss business setup with a business attorney.
How to search Mississippi business names
Before registering a business entity name, a prospective business owner must search the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office for name availability. A new business owner cannot use a name if it is an exact match to another business’s name. The new business owner also cannot use a name that is similar to another business’s name.
Other than being against the laws, it would not bode well for the two businesses involved, especially the new business—the new business owner could potentially lose customers if the customers are confused enough to go to the existing business’s website.
To search for existing entity names in Mississippi:
Step 1: Navigate to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s search tool for business filings.
Step 2: Ensure the ‘Business Name’ tab is selected.
Step 3: Ensure the radio button for ‘Starting With’ is selected.
Step 4: Enter the business name.
Step 5: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Step 6: The system will display all registered businesses that start with the search criteria you entered. Check businesses for an exact match and similar names.
Step 7: If none of the results match, repeat the search, except change the radio button from ‘Starting With’ to ‘Any Words.’
Step 8: The system will display all registered businesses that start with the search criteria you entered. Check businesses for an exact match and similar names.
If the system does not find exact matches or similar names, your business’s name is most likely available.
Some businesses file a trademark for their logos or trade names. If you wish to protect either, you should register the trademark with the State of Mississippi. However, if you file with the state, the business’s intellectual property is only protected in Mississippi.
A business that wishes to protect intellectual property throughout the United States must file the intellectual property with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. As with a business name, the business owner must ensure the intellectual property is available before registering it. To search for intellectual property in Mississippi:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s trademark search tool to lookup business names.
- Step 2: Enter the name or description of the intellectual property in the ‘Search by Keywords or Owner Name’ box.
- Step 3: Leave the ‘Search by Dates’ boxes empty.
- Step 4: Do not select any of the radio buttons for ‘Approval Date,’ ‘First MS Use,’ ‘First Use Anywhere,’ or ‘Expire Date.’
- Step 5: Optional. Select the classification of the intellectual property in the drop-down menu for ‘Search by Classification.’
- Step 6: Click the ‘Search’ button.
- Step 7: Review the results to see if another business has an exact match or similar intellectual property.
If someone else has similar registered intellectual property, the business owner must choose something else, whether a different logo, trade name, or trademark.
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
Businesses should establish an online presence to boost sales. With proper search engine optimization (SEO) and content that attracts potential customers, the business is able to procure sales from consumers it might have never reached.
To determine whether the business name is available to use a domain name, navigate to any of the domain registries on the internet, such as GoDaddy, and:
Step 1: Enter the business name in the domain search tool.
Step 2: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Step 3: Review the results. A business owner will not be able to use a name that is already being used by another individual or entity. The business name you enter might not be available.
Step 4: If the name is available, register it with the domain registry service. A business owner might also consider registering not only the dot-com name but the dot-net, dot-us, and dot-org names.
If a domain name is not available
- If the dot-com name is taken but not the dot-net or another extension, do not use the name. Customers will forget that your business is a dot-net or another extension and will end up on a competitor’s dot-com site.
- If the dot-com name is too similar, there are no rules stating that a business owner cannot use the name he chooses. However, customers could become confused and end up at a competitor’s site. Make the name more unique.
Check if the social media name is available
Checking for a business name availability on social media platforms is simple enough—just enter the name in the search box.
If the name is being used by another individual or entity, choose a different name so that the business does not lose customers to a competitor.
If a domain name is not available for social media platforms
If a name is not available for domains or social media platforms, a business owner could:
- Choose a different business name if the name is not already registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State.
- Create a name that aptly describes the business.
- Create a similar name, ensuring that it is not so similar that it confuses customers.
How to register a Mississippi business entity
Once a business owner determines that a business name is available, she must register the business name with the Mississippi Secretary of State. Before registering, the business owner must determine which entity to use.
If a business owner is not sure which entity is best for his business, he should contact a business law attorney for advice. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes different entities in different ways. Some businesses pay taxes on their personal tax returns, and others pay business taxes, then pay personal taxes on income (double taxation).
Additionally, certain entities, such as corporations and limited liability companies, protect a business owner’s personal assets from business creditors and lawsuits. Others, such as general partnerships and sole proprietors, do not protect personal assets from business creditors and lawsuits.
Someone in a dangerous industry or with a lot of expensive equipment might consider forming a corporation or a limited liability company instead of a sole proprietorship or general partnership since the risk of injury or defaulted loans is higher. Only the business owner and her attorney can make that decision.
Naming considerations for Mississippi business entities
Mississippi has laws regarding the naming structure of certain entities. Every business owner must abide by the naming conventions or risk having their business name registrations rejected.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships (not limited liability partnerships) do not have to register with the secretary of state as long as the business name is the surname of the business owner or partners. If a sole proprietorship or general partnership does not wish to do business under its name, it can apply for a fictitious name.
Registration of a fictitious name is voluntary. However, a business owner should consider registering a fictitious name because:
- It notifies other businesses that the name is in use but does not grant the registrant exclusive use of the name.
- Should a trademark issue arise, the registered business has more weight to its claim.
- Banks, creditors and vendors might require registration of the fictitious name.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
Business owners that choose to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to the business name:
- Limited liability company.
Business owners that choose to incorporate as a corporation or a nonprofit corporation must append one of the following to the business name:
How are business licenses obtained in Mississippi?
The only general business license required for Mississippi businesses is the sale and use tax license. Otherwise, business licenses depend on the county and city location of the business. In some cases, certain counties, or even the state, could require a business license based on the business’s industry.
How long does a fictitious name registration last?
Businesses must renew a fictitious name registration every five years if they plan to keep using it. Registration of a fictitious name is optional and does not guarantee exclusive use of the name.
Does my business require a registered agent?
All businesses registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance with state laws regarding incorporation. It also accepts service of process and other legal documents from various agencies, including the Secretary of State.
How do I find out if my business has liens against it or business property?
Navigate to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s UCC search and filing page. Choose one of the UCC searches, then enter the requested search criteria.