Washington 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 Washington business names
Washington not only allows you to search current records for a new business entity name, but it also allows you to search the digital archives. While a name that has been defunct for many years could be used again, you might want to check into it – if the company had a bad reputation, it could carry into your new business.
To conduct a corporation search of currently active and recently dissolved entity names:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Washington Secretary of State search tool to check for name availability.
- Step 2: Enter the business name you wish to register and choose the radio button for “Contains.”
- Step 3: If you choose “Exact Match,” you will not see companies with similar names and risk picking a name that is too similar.
Searching for other entities
You can also search for charities, fundraisers and trusts by registration number, organization name, FEIN number or UBI number.
- Step 1: Tick the radio button for the type of search you need.
- Step 2: Enter the information in the search tool.
- Step 3: Press “Search.”
If the search tool finds similar names, it will alert you.
How to register a business name in Washington
To register for a Washington business:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Washington Secretary of State website registration page.
- Step 2: Under the “Free User Account” box, click “Continue.”
- Step 3: Select the user type. Once you choose ‘Individual’ or ‘Entity,’ the system takes you to the registration page to create an account. If you are the incorporator, choose “Entity.” If you are a sole proprietor, choose “Individual.”
- Step 4: Follow the instructions on the page to register a new company name.
Washington trademark/DBA name search
In addition to searching the business entity name, a prospective business owner should also check the state’s trademark database. Other businesses might register a sole proprietorship or a DBA with the trademark office at the state and federal level.
If a name is registered as a trademark, a new business owner cannot use the name. Washington’s trademarks apply only to Washington. Business owners should also check the federal trademark database. A business cannot use a name if it is trademarked at the federal level.
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. If a business owner is not comfortable searching the federal trademark database, he should retain a business law attorney to help determine whether the name is available.
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.
Before a new business registers its name with the state or files a trademark, it should also check to see whether the domain name is available. While the domain name does not need to be the same as the business name, it is better for marketing reasons.
If a domain name is not available
If the domain name is not available, the business owner could still register the name she wants with the state – she just has to come up with a domain name that customers will associate with her business. It might be a similar name, or it might be a descriptive name. For example, instead of using “Morgan & Morgan” for its domain name, the well-known law firm uses “forthepeople.com.”
Check if the social media name is available
Additionally, before registering with the state of Washington, the prospective business owner should also check all social media platforms he wishes to use. To search social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, enter the business name in the search box to see if the exact or similar name comes up.
Unlike the state, social media platforms allow similar names. However, we do not recommend using a name that is too similar as customers could become confused and end up on the other business’s webpage instead of yours.
Naming considerations for Washington business entities
A business must choose an entity type and include certain words in the business name. These words tell the public what type of business entity the business chose. Entities have different levels of personal protection and are taxed in different ways by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
If a prospective business owner is unsure which entity is best for her business model, she should contact a business law attorney. For example, limited liability companies and partnerships are usually pass-through entities, while corporations are taxed at the corporate level and then again at the personal level when the business owner takes a paycheck.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to register with the Washington Secretary of State if the sole proprietorship or partnership uses the full legal name of the owner or owners.
However, the naming requirements dictate that if either uses a “doing business as” or a DBA, they must complete a trade name registration to register the DBA.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
Limited liability companies must include one of the following in the business name:
- Limited liability company;
- Limited liability co.;
A professional limited liability company must add the word ‘professional’ before ‘limited liability company. It may also use the initials ‘P.L.L.C.’ or ‘PLLC.’
Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs)
A limited liability partnership can contain any of the partners’ names. If the partnership is a limited liability limited partnership, it must include:
- Limited partnership;
If the partnership is a limited liability limited partnership, it must include:
- Limited liability limited partnership;
A cooperative association must contain one of the following:
If the cooperatives association is limited, it must contain one of the following:
- Limited cooperative association;
- Limited cooperative;
The business owner may elect to abbreviate as follows: Ltd., Co-op, Coop., Assoc., or Assn.
Corporations must include one of the following words or abbreviations in the business name:
Social purpose corporations must use ‘SPC,’ ‘social purpose corporation,’ or ‘S.P.C.’ in the business name.
Business names cannot contain certain words, including:
- Any combination of loan and industrial.
- Any combination of two or more of these words: savings, loan, building, home, society, home, association.
Professional service corporations
A professional service corporation must contain one of the following in its name:
- Professional service;
- Professional corporation;
The name must also contain the full name or surname of each shareholder plus the word ‘chartered,’ or the words ‘professional services,’ ‘P.S.’ or ‘P.C.’
The name of a nonprofit corporation must contain one of the following:
- A nonprofit corporation;
- A nonprofit mutual corporation.
Nonprofits cannot contain:
- Limited partnership;
How are business licenses obtained in Washington?
Instead of guessing which licenses you need, Washington provides a search tool to ensure that you have the proper licensing.
My business has two addresses. Which one do I use?
A business owner must use a physical street address for the business address. The address can also be the address of the registered agent.
What are the requirements for a registered agent in Washington?
A registered agent must have a physical address in Washington State. The agent must be available during all business hours to accept notices, demands, service of process, and other legal documents. A registered agent cannot use a PO box.
What do I do if my name appears on the public record of a business I know nothing about?
How do I obtain copies of documents filed with the Secretary of State?
Navigate to the Corporations and Charities Filing System. You can download copies for free. Search by UBI number and select the entity from the search result.
How do I reinstate my business that was administratively dissolved?
If a business does not file an initial or annual report, the Secretary of State will administratively dissolve the company. Log into your account and select “Reactivate Business.” Pay the $140 fee and any delinquent fees. If the company is a nonprofit, the fee is $35. Companies may be reinstated for up to five years from the date of dissolution.
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