Alabama 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 Alabama business names
Before a business owner can register a business name, he must search the Alabama Secretary of State’s office to determine whether the entity name is available. To search for an Alabama business name availability:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Alabama Secretary of State’s search tool.
- Step 2: Enter the business name in the ‘Name’ field.
- Step 3: Leave ‘Type’ set to ‘All Records.’
- Step 4: Leave ‘Place of Formation’ set to ‘All Records.’
- Step 5: Leave the ‘Principal City’ field blank.
- Step 6: Leave ‘Status’ set to ‘All Records.’
- Step 7: Click the ‘Search’ button.
The system will display a list of business names that are similar or an exact match to the business name in the search box. A new company cannot use a name that is already in use. It also cannot use a name that is similar to a name that is already in use.
If the business name is too close to someone else’s, choose a new business name. If a business owner tries to register the name, the Alabama Secretary of State will most likely deny the application. If the agency registers the name, someone using a similar name could file a lawsuit against the business that used a similar name.
How to register a business name in Alabama
Before registering a business name, the business owner must complete and file a name reservation. You must form the business entity within 15 days, as the name reservation will expire. You can renew a name reservation.
Once a business owner obtains the name reservation certificate, she can register the business. A business owner can register the entity with or without creating an account. However, so that the business owner has access to forms and could possibly save money on registration and renewal fees, we recommend creating an account. To register an entity name:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Alabama Secretary of State’s registration page for domestic corporations.
- Step 2: Click ‘Domestic Formation.’
- Step 3: Choose ‘Continue to Application’ or ‘Log in to Subscriber Account.’
- Step 4: Follow the instructions on the next screen to register a business entity.
Alabama trademark/DBA name search
Some business owners, usually those forming a sole proprietorship or general partnership, register a trade name with the Alabama Secretary of State since they do not have to register a business name that includes their own names.
Should a business owner wish to use a ‘doing business as’ or DBA name – referred to as a trade name in Alabama – the business owner must check the name database (above) to determine if the trade name is available. If a business owner wishes to file a trademark or service mark, they must search Alabama’s trademark database.
- Step 1: Click ‘Mark Description.’
- Step 2: Enter a description of the trademark or business logo.
- Step 3: Leave all of the boxes for search criteria and search types set in their default choices.
- Step 4: Review the trademarks and service marks displayed.
A business owner can also search business filings by the registrant’s name. Enter the name of the business to search for trademarks associated with the business. For example, a search for ‘Aldi’ brings up one trademark result under the applicant’s name.
Registering a trademark at the state level does not guarantee exclusivity at the federal level. If a business owner does not want anyone in the United States to use his trademark, he must register it 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.
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.
Visit any domain registry to search for a business name. Domain registries do not allow the same names, but they allow any business to use an entity name in use by the Alabama Secretary of State. For example, if XYZ Widget is unavailable at the SoS but is available as a domain name, the domain registry allows the business to use that name, even if the business is not the registered owner in the state.
If a domain name is not available
- If a business owner finds that his business name is not available as a domain name, he can choose a similar name or a descriptive name.
- However, if the business name is unavailable as a dot-com name but is available as a dot-net, we do not recommend that a business owner uses the domain name. It will confuse the customers, and some of your customers could end up at a competitor’s website.
Check if the social media name is available
A business owner should also plan on having a social media presence. The cost of marketing to a select audience ranges from free to very little. As with domain names, others can use the business name a business owner chooses, so check it before registering with the state if you want the same name as the company name. Otherwise, if the name is taken, choose a name that aptly describes the business.
Naming considerations for Alabama business entities
When forming a business entity in Alabama, be sure to pick the entity that best suits the type of business. Certain entities do not offer personal protection from business creditors or lawsuits. Each type of entity is taxed differently by the Internal Revenue Service. Some are pass-through entities, and some, like corporations, are taxed at the corporate level and again at the personal level. A business law attorney can help a prospective business owner choose the appropriate business entity name for protection and taxation issues.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not need to register with the Alabama Secretary of State. Sole proprietorships do not have naming conventions to follow. However, a sole proprietorship must include the business owner’s name in the business name.
If a sole proprietorship or general partnership wants to use a different name, it must register the ‘doing business as’ or DBA name as a trade name.
A general partnership must include the partners’ last names in the business name. It must also include one of the following:
- General partnership.
- Not for profit general partnership.
If a general partnership wishes to use a different name, it must file a DBA.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
An Alabama limited liability company must include one of the following in its name:
- Limited liability company.
It cannot have a word in it that is easily confused with a governmental agency or a banking-related name.
A corporation must include one of the following in its name:
The name cannot include words that would make it easy to confuse with a governmental agency or a bank.
Nonprofit corporations follow the same naming conventions.
How are business licenses obtained in Alabama?
The state and county might require business privilege licenses. Check with the local county probate office for these licenses. Some businesses also need store licenses, which are also issued by the county probate office.
How does a business owner obtain copies of documents?
A business owner must visit the Alabama Secretary of State to obtain copies of documents. The SoS will not forward notices – the business owner must go to the website to download the requested documents.
How does a business owner obtain a Certificate of Existence?
A business owner must visit the Alabama Secretary of State to obtain a Certificate of Existence. The Secretary of State will not forward certificates or notices – the business owner must go to the website to download the requested document.
How does a business owner amend his records?
A business owner may amend his records through the Alabama Secretary of State. However, she cannot change the entity type or amend the registered agent. A business owner can change the legal or fictitious name and make other amendments.
Do I need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Most businesses need a Federal Employer Identification Number. Sole proprietorships with no employees do not need one, but banks might require a business to obtain the FEIN to open a separate business bank account.
How do I find liens filed against my business?
Visit the Alabama Secretary of State’s UCC filings page to lookup UCC lien filings.
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