North Carolina 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 North Carolina business names
Before registering a business entity name in North Carolina, a prospective business owner must check for name availability. If the name is an exact match or too similar, the business owner must use another name. To search for name availability:
- Step 1: Navigate to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s search tool to start entering search criteria.
- Step 2: Select “Company” in the first search box labeled ‘Select what you want to search.’
- Step 3: Select “Starting With” in the second search box labeled “Select how you want to search.”
- Step 4: Enter the prospective business name in the third box labeled “Searching For.”
- Step 5: If the system finds an exact match, choose a different business name.
- Step 6: If the system finds a similar name, you must choose a different business name if the name is too similar. For example, you cannot use An XYZ Widget Company if someone is using The XYZ Widget Company. You also cannot use XYZ Widgets, LLC if someone is using XYZ Widgets, Inc.
- Step 7: Double-check your findings by repeating the search, except select “Any Words” instead of “Starting With” in Step 3.
How to register a business name in North Carolina
The business owner must create an account to file a business entity online. This is the quickest and easiest way to submit a business entity name. North Carolina takes you through the process step-by-step.
Business owners can also choose to complete the documents and mail them to the North Carolina Secretary of State, Business Registration Division, PO Box 29622, Raleigh, NC 27626-0622.
If the business decides to hand-deliver via courier, give the courier the following address: Business Registration Division, 2 South Salisbury Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. If the courier requires a telephone number, give it 919-814-5400.
To deliver documents in person yourself, use the same address that you would give a courier.
A business owner can also opt for expedited filing. For filing within 24 hours, hand-deliver the documents to the above-listed address and include an expedited filing fee of $100. As long as the filing is received between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, the office will file it the same day.
If the business needs immediate filing, the documents must be at the office prior to noon, and the fee is $200.
North Carolina trademark/DBA name search
If a prospective business owner wishes to register a trademark or trade name in North Carolina, he must search the state’s trademark database. The business owner should search by mark name, keywords, and by entering a description of the goods or services to ensure that no such trademark already exists.
Completing a trademark search is more difficult because the business owner must search for keywords and descriptions multiple times to ensure the trademark is unique. Filing a trademark at the state level only protects it in North Carolina.
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.
Checking for a domain name is as easy as picking a domain registry, such as GoDaddy, and entering the business name in the search box. The registry will display results showing exact matches and similar names. It will also show you similar names that are available.
Also, if the name is available as a dot-com, we recommend reserving the dot-net and dot-org names. The business can use these pages as landing pages to point to the dot-com site.
If a domain name is not available
If a domain registry shows a business name is unavailable as a dot-com but available as a dot-net, we do not recommend the business use the dot-net. The names are too similar, which means that the business customers will end up at a competitor’s website.
Check if the social media name is available
Checking social media platforms is also as easy as entering the business name in the search box. If another individual or entity is using the business name, it will show up in the drop-down search results.
If the business name is available, create an account for the name immediately – as anyone throughout the world could use the name.
Naming considerations for North Carolina business entities
Businesses must follow certain laws when naming an entity. The naming conventions are different for each entity type.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Businesses that opt to set up as a sole proprietorship or a general partnership do not have to register with the North Carolina Secretary of State as long as the business owner and partners use their surnames as the business name.
If a sole proprietor or general partnership wishes to use a fictitious name (assumed name or ‘doing business as’ name – DBA), it must file the name with the Register of Deeds in the county where the business is located. Assumed names expire; thus, the business owner must reregister it every five years.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to its name:
- Limited liability company.
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Limited Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company.
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited partnership must append one of the following to its name:
- Limited partnership.
- Ltd. partnership.
If the partnership is a registered limited liability partnership:
- Registered limited liability partnership.
Corporations A business owner who wishes to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to its name:
If a business owner wishes to incorporate as a nonprofit, the business owner does not need to append an entity type at the end of its name.
A business owner can also choose to incorporate as a professional entity – either as a corporation or a limited liability company. Those who choose a professional corporation must append one of the following to the end of the name:
- Professional corporation.
- Professional association.
If the entity type is a professional limited liability company, the name must end in ‘professional limited liability company,’ ‘P.L.L.C.,’ or ‘PLLC.’
How are business licenses obtained in North Carolina?
North Carolina does not have a general business license requirement at the state level. However, certain occupations may need a license at the state and local levels. A business owner can check for business license requirements by following the links provided at the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office.
Does my business need a registered agent?
If a business is registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office, it must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance with state regulations. It also allows the business to have privacy since service of processes and other legal documents are served on the registered agent.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
If the business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Some banks, vendors, and creditors might require businesses without employees to obtain a FEIN to do business. A business owner can apply for the FEIN, or we can apply for the business owner.
How do I know if a vendor filed a lien against my business or business property?
Search the UCC records to determine whether a vendor or creditor filed a lien against the business or certain business property.
Does my business have to file an annual report?
Yes. If the business is registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office, the business must file an annual report. A registered agent can file the report for you or will notify you so that you can file the report yourself. North Carolina businesses can file annual reports online.
My business was administratively dissolved for not filing an annual report. How do I reinstate the business?
Navigate to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office’s reinstatement app. The application fee is $100. Choose the appropriate entity type to obtain the proper form and start the reinstatement process.
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