Tennessee 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 Tennessee business names
Before a business owner formally sets up a business, the business owner needs to search Tennessee’s Secretary of State’s office to ensure the business name is available. Tennessee will not accept an exact match, nor will it accept names that are too similar in nature.
Tennessee has a very simple name availability check. To search for a business name in Tennesee:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s business entity name search tool.
- Step 2: Enter the business name in the only search criteria box. This is the only search type Tennessee requests to check for name availability.
- Step 3: Check the CAPTCHA box.
- Step 4: Click the ‘Search’ button.
- Step 5: Review the search results for an exact match and similar names.
If the search system displays an exact match or similar names, the business owner will need to choose another business name.
How to register a business name in Tennessee
Registering a business entity name in Tennessee is easiest done online. A business owner does not have to log in to an account to start the registration process. To register a Tennessee business:
- Step 1: Navigate to the business registration page at the Secretary of State’s office.
- Step 2: Choose the entity type. The questions following the entity type will depend on which entity type the business owner chose.
- Step 3: Check the Attestation box.
- Step 4: Click the ‘Continue’ button. The system will pull up the proper form for certain entities, such as partnerships.
- Step 5: If a business owner is registering a limited liability company, for-profit corporation or nonprofit corporation, the system will take the business owner for a series of questions. Complete all of the questions to register the business name.
- Step 6: If the system takes the business owner to a form, complete the form and print it out. The business owner will have to mail or hand-deliver the form.
Send forms with the appropriate payment to:
Tennessee Secretary of State
ATTN: Corporate Filing
312 Rosa L. Parks Ave. FL 6
Nashville, TN 37243
Tennessee trademark/DBA name search
Business owners who wish to register trademarks or service marks in Tennessee should search the Tennessee Secretary of State’s trademark search tool to ensure the intellectual property is available to use. The state will not accept an exact match or a trademark or service mark that is similar to another business’s intellectual property.
Also, if the business owner wants exclusive national use, she must register the intellectual property with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Registering intellectual property in Tennessee only protects it in Tennessee.
To search the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s trademark search tool to start entering search criteria.
- Step 2: Tennessee offers several search types, including the mark control number and owner name. Leave those boxes empty.
- Step 3: Enter the mark name in the box labeled ‘Mark Name.’
- Step 4: Uncheck the ‘Active Only’ box. It is not a good idea to use a similar mark to one that is newly inactive as people will associate it with the other business.
- Step 5: Select the radio button for ‘Contains’ to the right of the mark name.
- Step 6: Check the ‘I’m not a robot’ box for the reCAPTCHA.
- Step 7: Review the search results for exact matches and similar trademarks or service marks.
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.
Websites often bring additional customers into a business – if the website is done properly. A business owner can create an internet presence to help boost sales. To create a website, visit any domain registry. Enter the business name in the search box to check name availability.
If a domain name is not available
If the search results show that a dot-com is unavailable, but a dot-net or another extension is available, we do not recommend using that business name. It’s too easy for customers to become confused and end up on a competitor’s website.
If the dot-com name is available, we recommend purchasing the dot-net and dot-org website extensions. Additional common extensions a business owner must want to reserve include dot-usa and dot-store. A business owner could create landing pages with the extra extension pages and point them to the main dot-com page.
Check if the social media name is available
Social media platforms provide a way to reach out to customers by posting links to a business’s blog or main website. It gives the business owner an inexpensive or free way to advertise.
To check name availability on any social media platform, enter the business name in the search box. If the name is unavailable, the results will show an exact match or similar names. If the name is unavailable and the business owner chooses a similar name, make sure it’s not so similar that customers become confused and end up on a competitor’s website.
Naming considerations for Tennessee business entities
Tennessee requires businesses to append certain words, phrases, or abbreviations to the business entity name.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Business owners do not have to register sole proprietorships. However, if a sole proprietor wishes to use a fictitious name, the business owner must register the fictitious name. She does not have to append an entity type at the end of the name since the sole proprietorship is not a registered entity.
Unlike other states, Tennessee provides a way to register a general partnership. Follow the above steps to register a business. Choose “Partnerships,” then choose “General Partnership.” The system will direct the business owner to a form to complete and mail in or hand-deliver.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.” or “LLC” at the end of the business name.
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited partnership must append “limited partnership” or “L.P.” at the end of the business name.
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 who chooses to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation does not have to append an entity type after the business name.
How are business licenses obtained in Tennessee?
Tennessee does not have a general business license for all companies. Instead, the state might require a business to register to pay certain taxes. Counties and cities could also require business licenses, so business owners should check with their local jurisdictions.
Does my Tennessee business need a registered agent?
Yes. Businesses registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance with Tennessee laws and regulations. The registered agent also accepts service of process and other legal documents on behalf of the business.
Does my Tennessee business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Yes. Businesses with employees must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). In some cases, vendors, banks, and creditors might require a business with no employees to obtain a FEIN. A business owner can apply for a FEIN, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business owner.
Does my Tennessee business have to file an annual report?
Yes, Tennessee requires all businesses registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State to file an annual report. The report filer needs the Secretary of State’s control number (file number) to start the process. If a business owner does not know the control number, she can find it by searching for the business name.
How do I find out if a creditor or vendor filed a lien against my business or certain business property?
A business owner can search the Tennessee Secretary of State’s UCC database to determine if a vendor or creditor filed a lien against the business or certain business property.
How do I contact the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office if I have a question?
Business owners can call (800) 861-7393 or (615) 741-2555 for more information. However, the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office will not give a business owner legal advice on business filings for forming a new business.
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