Georgia 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 Georgia business names
The first step in setting up a new company in Georgia is to search for a prospective business name. If a name is already in use, a prospective business owner cannot use it. The name also cannot be similar to an existing business’s name.
The Georgia Secretary of State corporations division handles business transactions.
- Step 1: Navigate to the Georgia Secretary of State’s webpage to conduct a business name search.
- Step 2: A prospective business owner has three choices of search parameters: Starts With, Contains, and Exact Match. We suggest using “Contains” so that the search tool pulls up similar business names. If you use “Exact Match,” you might not see that another business has a very similar name during the business search.
- Step 3: Enter the business name. The system will pull up any name that is similar to the name searched.
How to register a business name in Georgia
When a business owner is ready to file the business name with the Georgia SoS, she should have several pieces of information ready.
- Every company must have a registered agent. The person registering the business should have the agent name, address, phone, and email address. The registered agent must have a Georgia address.
- The company name or a name reservation number if you registered the name first.
- The name and address of the person registering the company.
- The business office’s mailing address.
- The name and address of every person on the board.
- Optional provisions the business owner would like to include in the initial incorporation documents.
- Credit card, cashier’s check, money order or check.
Businesses can register online, by paper online, or by mail. To register online, visit the Secretary of State’s website and follow the instructions for the type of entity you choose.
To register by paper online, create the articles of organization as if you are going to mail them in. Instead, upload them online. Create a user account, then choose the “file by paper online” option.
Businesses that prefer to register by mail must mail the articles of organization with the fee plus an additional $10 service charge to:
Office of Secretary of State
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE
Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334
The filing fees are as follows:
- LLC: $100
- Corporation: $100
- Limited Partnership: $100
Georgia trademark/DBA name search
Business owners should also check trademark names for entity name availability. If a business uses a DBA as a sole proprietor, it might not have to register the name. Though optional, the business might have registered the DBA as a trademark to protect the name.
A prospective business owner can search the trademark database by using the following:
- Mark name.
- Registrant name.
- Class of goods.
- Class of services.
- Identification of goods.
- Identification of services.
- Mark description.
If the business owner does not find a trademark by searching under one method, he should also search using the other methods, such as class of goods or services, identification of goods or services, and the mark description. Keywords might pull up a name that does not appear under the mark name.
When using Georgia’s trademark search tool, keep in mind that the database does not contain any pending trademarks, federal or foreign trademarks, and trademarks registered in other states.
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.
In addition to checking state databases for a business name, a prospective business owner should also check to see if a domain name is available. The domain name does not have to be the same as the business name, but if the business name is available, that is the best option.
If a domain name is not available
If the business name is not available, choose a name that is similar to the business name or one that describes the business. A prospective business owner can search for a business name using any of the domain registry sites such as GoDaddy.
Check if the social media name is available
Most businesses today not only have an internet presence, but they use social media for marketing. The business name only needs to search the social media sites to see if the business name is available. If not, create a similar name – but not too similar as people could get the two businesses mixed up. A business owner can also search for the business name used for the website instead of the real business name if the name the owner wants to register with the state is not available.
For Facebook and Twitter, simply search the name of the business in the search bar at the top of the sites.
Naming considerations for Georgia business entities
When a business chooses an entity, it must follow the naming conventions as dictated by Georgia laws. As for choosing which entity is best for your business, it depends on the business setup. Each type of entity has its own tax structure. If you are unsure which is best for the business, discuss the various entities with a business law attorney.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
A business owner does not have to register sole proprietorships and general partnerships with the Georgia Secretary of State. However, if you wish to use a DBA – a trade name – you should register it with the state.
Trade names must abide by the naming conventions. The prospective business owner should research the name through the Secretary of State’s listing and the trademark listings before submitting an application.
Once you know the business name is not in use, file it with the county clerk in the county where the business is located.
The business owner must also publish a copy of the trade name registration in a local newspaper at least once per week for two consecutive weeks. You must use the same newspaper that the sheriff uses for legal advertisements.
Businesses do not need to renew trade names every year. Additionally, it could take several weeks for the application to be processed.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A limited liability company must include the following in the business name:
- Limited liability company;
- Ltd. liability company;
- Ltd. liability co.;
- Ltd liability company;
- Ltd liability co;
- Limited company;
- LC; or
The Georgia Statute does not spell out which words must be included in a corporation’s name, but it cannot include “limited liability company,” “limited liability partnership,” “limited partnership,” “limited liability limited partnership,” or any abbreviations for the words.
A corporate name also cannot include the acronym “DBA.”
A limited liability limited partnership must include the words:
- Limited liability limited partnership;
A business owner can choose to abbreviate ‘limited’ as “Ltd” or “Ltd.” Limited liability limited partnerships cannot include the name of a partner unless the partner is a general partner.
How are business licenses obtained in Georgia?
A business applies for a business license in the county or city where the business is located, usually the city hall. If a business needs a professional license, the business owner should check with the state and federal governments and the professional website for the industry. For example, businesses that handle food might need a license from the USDA.
How long is the processing time if a business registers online?
It could take up to seven days, depending on the number of registrations that are already submitted.
Do I have to file an annual registration in Georgia?
Yes. If a business is registered with the state of Georgia, it must file annually. A business may file with one click if it does not have any changes. The state does not require the business owner to log in for the one-click registration. If a business has changes, it must log in to complete the yearly registration.
How long does a name reservation last?
Once you reserve a name, you have 30 days to register the business. The name reservation expires in 30 days.
Can I be my business’s registered agent?
Yes. However, you must be available during business hours to accept service of legal documents. If you do not believe you will be available every day, you just choose another person or entity to act as the registered agent.
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