Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin business names
Before registering a business entity name in Wisconsin, prospective business owners must search the database to determine name availability. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions will not accept business names if there is an exact match or if a name is too similar.
Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions’ search tool is a simple tool to use. It requires one search type – the business name.
Step 1: Navigate to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ search tool to enter search criteria.
Step 2: Enter the business name in the search box.
Step 3: Click the ‘Search Records’ button.
Step 4: Review the list of results. If a business owner finds an exact match or a business name that is too similar, he must choose another business name.
If a business owner wishes to file a trademark or service mark in Wisconsin, he must create an account. Once the business owner creates an account, he can search the trademark database to ensure he is not filing a trademark or service mark someone else is using.
Intellectual property filed in Wisconsin is protected only in Wisconsin. If a business owner wishes to protect her intellectual property on a national basis, she must file it 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 have an internet presence, even if they don’t sell their goods and services online, have the benefit of getting the business in front of more eyes. And, the business gets low-cost and sometimes free advertising.
To check for domain name availability, navigate to any domain registry, such as GoDaddy. Enter the business name in the search box. The system will advise as to name availability.
If the system states that the name is available, make sure it’s with a dot-com extension. If the business name shows up as available as any extension other than dot-com, customers could become confused and end up on a competitor’s website. Additionally, if the dot-com is available, we recommend also registering other extensions, including dot-net, dot-org, dot-us and dot-store.
If a domain name is not available
If the name is not available, the business owner can choose another business name or even use a similar name – just ensure that the name is not too similar, or customers could end up on a competitor’s website.
Check if the social media name is available
Another method of getting a business in front of more people is to create social media accounts on various platforms. To search for a business name on social media platforms, enter the business name in the search box.
If the name is available, create an account on the platform as soon as possible. Social media account names are worldwide, so it is possible that someone could use the name before you create an account.
If the name is unavailable, a business owner can use a similar name – but don’t make it too similar. Customers will become confused and end up on a competitor’s website.
How to register a Wisconsin business entity
Wisconsin has a OneStop Business Portal for business owners to register business entities, file annual reports, and otherwise manage their businesses. To register a business entity, navigate to the questionnaire to determine if you should create an account.
Once you answer the questions by checking the boxes, the system will take you to the login page.
Naming considerations for Wisconsin business entities
Wisconsin requires business owners to append certain words, phrases or abbreviations to the end of certain business names.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
A business owner who chooses to do business as a sole proprietor or general partnership does not have to register with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. However, should either wish to use a ‘doing business as’ name (DBA), the business owner must register the trade name with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
Registering a trade name does not provide personal asset protection. If a business owner wishes to protect personal assets from corporate creditors or lawsuits, she should choose a different entity, such as a limited liability company.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
Business owners who choose to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following after the business name:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited liability co.
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited partnership must append one of the following at the end of the business name:
- Limited partnership.
Business owners who choose to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
Business owners who choose to incorporate as a nonprofit association must append one of the following at the end of the business name:
- Unincorporated association.
- Unincorporated assoc.
How are business licenses obtained in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin does not have a general business license requirement, but the state does require businesses to register and collect certain taxes. Businesses should always check with the county and city for business permits for local jurisdictions.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Any business that has employees must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). In some cases, banks, vendors, and creditors might require a business to obtain a FEIN, even if the business does not have employees. Business owners can apply for a FEIN, or we can obtain the FEIN for you.
Does my business need a registered agent?
Any business registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures that the business is in compliance with state regulations and laws. A registered agent also accepts service of process and other legal documents on behalf of the business.
Does my business have to file an annual report?
Yes. Any business registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions must file an annual report. Failure to file an annual report could result in the administrative dissolution of the business.
How do I know if a creditor or vendor filed a lien against my business or business property?
A business owner can search the UCC filings to lookup any liens filed against business property or the business. Business owners must log in to conduct a UCC search.
Where do I find Wisconsin’s business forms?
Business owners can download filing forms from the Department of Financial Institutions.