Montana 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 Montana business names
Prior to registering an entity name, business owners should search the Montana Secretary of State’s database for name availability. If a business name is not available, the Secretary of State’s office will reject the application.
Step 1: Navigate to the Montana Secretary of State’s search tool for business entity names.
Step 2: Click the ‘Advanced’ drop-down button under the search box.
Step 3: Select the ‘Contains’ radio button.
Step 4: Leave ‘Entity Type’ set to “All.”
Step 5: Leave ‘Status’ set to “All.”
Step 6: Select ‘Montana’ from the state selection drop-down box.
Step 7: Leave ‘County’ set to all.
Step 8: Ensure the ‘Search by Registered Agent PID’ is unchecked.
Step 9: Leave the series of date boxes empty.
Step 10: Click the ‘Search’ button.
If the system displays an exact match, the name is unavailable. The business owner must choose another name.
If the system displays several similar names, ensure that the chosen business name is not too similar. For example, The ABC Widgets is too similar to ABC Widgets. The Montana Secretary of State’s office will reject an application if the name is too similar.
If a business wishes to file intellectual property in Montana, the business owner should search the Montana Secretary of State’s trademark database first.
- Step 1: Navigate to the Montana Secretary of State’s trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Click the ‘Advance’ drop-down box under the search box for advanced search criteria.
- Step 3: Select the ‘Contains’ radio button.
- Step 4: Select the radio button for ‘All Marks.’
- Step 5: Leave ‘Status’ set to “All.”
- Step 6: Leave ‘Design Type’ set to “All.”
- Step 7: Leave the date boxes empty.
- Step 8: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Review the results that the system displays to determine whether another business in Montana registered the same trademark, trade name or service name. Registering intellectual property in Montana only protects it in Montana.
If a business owner wishes to protect her intellectual property on a national basis, she must file the intellectual property with the US patent and Trademark Office. 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 that create and build a web presence get their names in front of more people for much less money. The first place to start building an internet presence is to create a website that tells the world what goods or services you offer.
The first step in that process is to register a domain name. Navigate to any of the domain registries. Enter the business name in the search box. If the domain registry finds an exact match, you will not be able to use that name.
If a domain name is not available
The domain registry might suggest alternatives. If the registry suggests the same name with a different extension, you could use that name, but we don’t recommend it. Customers will become confused – many don’t even check whether a site is a dot-com or a dot-net site. You could lose customers to a competitor.
Instead, choose one of these options:
- If the name is an exact match, consider picking a new business name if you haven’t registered the name with the Montana Secretary of State.
- Create a domain name that aptly describes the business.
- Choose a similar domain name. However, do not make it so similar that it confuses customers.
Check if the social media name is available
To check social media platforms for a business name, enter the business entity name in the platform’s search box. If no exact matches or similar names exist, create a social media account in the business’s name as soon as possible.
Because social media sites are national – worldwide, actually – they do not check individual states for name usage. Someone in another state could use the same business name even if you registered the name with the Secretary of State.
How to register a Montana business entity
To register a Montana business entity, navigate to the main registration page.
Choose the entity type.
Clicking on the entity type will take you to the state’s registration page to create an account.
Once a business owner creates an account, he will be able to register the business entity.
A business name cannot be an exact match or closely similar to an existing business name. Additionally, businesses cannot use certain words in their names, such as ‘bank.’
Naming considerations for Montana business entities
Montana has naming conventions that business owners must follow when naming business entities.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not need to register with the Montana Secretary of State because the business owners must use their surnames as the business name. However, if the business wishes to use a ‘doing business as’ or DBA name, it must file the name with the Montana Secretary of State.
A DBA name, or assumed name as it is referred to in Montana, does not protect the business owner’s personal property against business creditors and lawsuits.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following onto the business name:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited company.
The business owner may also abbreviate ‘limited’ as “Ltd.” and ‘company’ as “Co.”
Limited Liability Partnerships
A business that prefers to incorporate as a limited partnership must append one of the following onto the business name:
- Limited partnership.
If the business owner wishes to incorporate as a limited liability limited partnership, he must append one of the following onto the name:
- Limited liability limited partnership.
A business that is incorporating as a corporation must append one of the following to its business name:
Montana does not require nonprofit corporations to add a naming convention to their business name.
If a business owner chooses to incorporate as a professional corporation, she must append ‘professional corporation’ or ‘P.C.’ to the end of the business name.
How are business licenses obtained in Montana?
Montana does not have a general state business license. Instead, local jurisdictions handle business licenses. The state does have certain business permits and licenses for certain industries. Visit Montana.gov to determine which business licenses a business needs.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
If a business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). However, some banks, creditors, and vendors might require a business to have a FEIN to do business with them. A business owner can apply for a FEIN, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
Does my business need a registered agent?
Yes, if the business is registered with the Montana Secretary of State, it must have a registered agent. A registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance with the state and offers privacy for legal matters so that customers and employees do not know if the business is being sued. The registered agent accepts service of process and other legal documents on behalf of the business.
How do I know if a creditor filed a lien against my business or business property?
Search the Montana liens database (UCC lien search) to determine if a vendor or creditor filed a lien against the business or specific business property.
Does my business have to file an annual report?
Yes. All businesses registered with the Montana Secretary of State’s office must file an annual report. The annual report notifies the Secretary of State’s office of any changes to the business structure. If a business does not file an annual report, the state could administratively dissolve the business.
How do I renew my business’s mark?
The business owner or registered agent must log into the business’s e-Pass account to renew a trademark or service mark.