Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island business names
Prior to registering a business entity name, a prospective business owner should search to ensure the business name is available. The Rhode Island Department of State Secretary of State has a comprehensive search tool. To search for an entity name:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Secretary of State’s search tool to start entering search criteria.
- Step 2: Ensure the radio button for ‘Status’ is set to “Active.”
- Step 3: Select the radio button for ‘Search by entity name.’
- Step 4: Enter the entity name in the box labeled ‘Enter name.’
- Step 5: In the ‘Search type’ section, select “Begins with.”
- Step 6: Choose “100 Items” for the display results.
- Step 7: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Once the system displays the results, browse through for exact matches and similar names. If the system displays an exact match, the business owner must choose a new business name. If the system shows similar matches, make sure the name is not too similar that it could confuse customers and send them to a competitor.
Additionally, the Secretary of State will not approve a business entity name that is too similar. For example, a business owner cannot use ABC Widgets, Corp. if ABC Widgets, LLC exists. A business owner also cannot use a name if the only difference is an article. For example, if a company named ‘The ABC Widget Company’ exists, the business owner cannot choose ‘An ABC Widget Company.’
How to register a business name in Rhode Island
Once a business owner chooses an available name, he is ready to file the business entity.
- Step 1: Navigate to Rhode Island’s new business page.
- Step 2: Choose the link for filing online or completing a PDF for the appropriate entity.
- Step 3: Follow the instructions presented. If a business owner decides to file online, the system will bring her to the form. Complete the form online, and click the ‘Click HERE to submit this information’ button to submit the filing.
If a business owner does not know which entity to choose, she should contact a business law attorney. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes various entities in different ways. Additionally, certain business entities do not protect the business owner’s personal assets from business creditors and lawsuits. For example, a sole proprietorship does not offer this protection, while a limited liability company and a corporation do.
Rhode Island trademark/DBA name search
Rhode Island allows businesses to file trademarks or service marks. Before registering the business’s intellectual property, search the Rhode Island trademark database to ensure a similar mark does not exist.
- Step 1: Navigate to the Rhode Island trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Select the radio button in the ‘Search by’ section for ‘Trademark | Servicemark.’ A business owner can also search by ‘Mark description.’
- Step 3: Leave the date range boxes empty.
- Step 4: Set the search type to “Contains anywhere.”
- Step 5: Set the transaction type to “All.”
- Step 6: Select “100” for ‘Display number of items per page.’
- Step 7: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Once the system displays results, browse through them to locate any intellectual property that is an exact match or similar. If the business owner finds a similar mark or an exact match, she must change the mark.
If a business owner registers intellectual property in Rhode Island, the intellectual property is only protected in Rhode Island. If the business owner wishes to have the intellectual property protected throughout the United States, he must register the trademark or service mark 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.
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.
To determine whether a domain name is available, navigate to any domain registry, such as GoDaddy. Enter the business name in the search box. The system will advise as to whether the domain name is available.
If a domain name is not available
If a domain name is unavailable as a dot-com but available as a dot-net, we do not recommend that a business owner use the name. It is too easy for customers to become confused and end up on a competitor’s website. Instead, choose a different name.
If the name is available as a dot-com, we recommend that the business owner reserve the dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org as soon as possible. A business owner could also choose to register some of the other extensions, such as dot-us and dot-store. Put them to use by creating landing pages that point to the main dot-com site.
Check if the social media name is available
In addition to registering a domain name, a business owner should also consider creating social media accounts for the business. Searching any social media platform for name availability is as simple as entering the business name in the search box.
Since social media platforms do not follow naming rules as the state does, it’s a good possibility that the business name is unavailable. A business owner can use a descriptive name or if she wants the business name, domain name, and social media platform names to be the same, choose a new business name.
Naming considerations for Rhode Island business entities
Rhode Island requires businesses to append certain phrases, words or abbreviations to the end of the business name.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to register with the Secretary of State. Thus, they do not have naming conventions other than using the owner’s or partners’ surnames in the name.
If a Rhode Island business wishes to use a fictitious name, the business must file with the Division of Business Services, 148 W. River Street, Providence, RI 02904-2615.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to the business name:
- Limited-liability company
If the limited liability company is a low-profit limited liability company, the business owner must append:
- Low-profit 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.
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited partnership must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Limited partnership.
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
A business owner can organize a nonprofit company as a limited liability company, corporation, trust, or association. By far, the most common is a corporation. Rhode Island does not require nonprofits to add entity designators at the end of a nonprofit company’s business name.
How are business licenses obtained in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island does not require a general business license. Instead, certain industries must obtain a business license. Businesses should also check with the county and city where the business is located to check for required licenses for local jurisdictions.
Does a Rhode Island business need a registered agent?
Yes. If the state requires the business to register with the Rhode Island Secretary of State, the business must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures that the business remains in compliance. The registered agent also accepts service of process and other legal documents on behalf of the business.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Yes, if the business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). In some cases, banks, vendors, and creditors might require a business to obtain a FEIN to do business, even if the business does not have employees. A business owner can apply for a FEIN herself, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
How do I find out if a creditor placed a lien on my business or business property?
Navigate to Rhode Island’s UCC search page. Enter the required criteria to search for UCC filings for the business. If a lien does not come up under the business owner’s name, search by the name of the business.
Does my business have to file an annual report?
Yes, if the business is registered with the Rhode Island Secretary of State, the business must file an annual report or risk being administratively dissolved.
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