Maine 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 Maine business names
Before a business owner registers a business entity name, he should search the Maine Secretary of State’s office for exact matches and similar names. However, Maine doesn’t exactly make the process easy. It allows you to search by keyword, which is fine; however, it only returns 100 records at a time.
Business owners should search for exact names instead of partial names. For example, if the chosen business name is Smith’s Auto Repair Shop, include the entire name. Searching for “Auto Repair Shop” may return more than 100 records. A business owner could easily miss an exact match for Smith’s Auto Repair Shop.
To search the Maine Secretary of State’s office for entity names:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Maine Secretary of State’s search tool to enter entity name search criteria.
- Step 2: Enter the full business name in the box labeled ‘Keyword from name to be searched.’
- Step 3: Click the ‘Click Here to Search’ button.
- Step 4: If an exact match is displayed, the name is unavailable.
- Step 5: If no exact match is displayed, browse through the results for similar names. The Secretary of State’s office will reject applications with similar names.
A similar name might have an article, such as A, An, or The, as the only thing that is different. Additionally, if you wish to register Smith’s Auto Repair Shop, LLC and ‘Smith’s Auto Repair Shop, Inc., exists, the name is similar.
How to register a business name in Maine
Business owners who are ready to register a Maine business entity should navigate to the Maine Secretary of State’s Bureau of Corporations office to download the appropriate forms. Once on the page, choose from one of the following to obtain the appropriate documents:
- Business Corporations.
- Nonprofit Corporations.
- Limited Partnerships.
- Limited Liability Companies.
- Limited Liability Partnerships.
- General Partnerships.
Once on the page, select the forms needed and print them to complete them. The instructions will direct you where to file the business name application.
Maine trademark/DBA name search
A business owner can file intellectual property in the form of a trade name, service mark, or trademark in Maine. The business owner will have to download the application form and submit the application and fee to the Maine Secretary of State’s office.
When a business owner files a trademark with Maine, if accepted, the business owner’s mark is protected from use by others only in the State of Maine.
Mail intellectual property applications with the appropriate fee to the Department of the Secretary of State, Corporations, UCC and Commissions, 111 Sewall Street, 4th Floor, Augusta, ME 04330. Business owners can also hand-deliver applications and fees to the Department of the Secretary of State, Corporations, UCC and Commissions, 101 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0101.
Business owners who wish to protect intellectual property on a national level must file with the U.S. 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.
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.
Marketing can be expensive. One of the ways to get a business in front of more people is to go online. While it takes some cash to set it up, a business owner can advertise for next to nothing – or even nothing if she has the skills to set up a website.
To check domain name availability, navigate to any domain registry, such as GoDaddy. Enter the business name in the search box.
If a domain name is not available
If the name is not available, the domain registry will tell you. In some cases, the name might not be available as a dot-com name but is as a dot-net.
If this is the case, do not use the dot-net extension with the same name as the unavailable dot-com – it’s too easy for customers to become confused and end up on a competitor’s site.
- Choose another business name if you haven’t already registered it with the Maine Secretary of State.
- Choose a similar name. For example, instead of ABCWidgetes.com, a business person might choose ABCWidgetsMaine.com.
- Choose a domain name that describes your business. For example, Morgan & Morgan uses ‘forthepeople.com.’
Check if the social media name is available
Social media offers its own issues when creating a business account. Because businesses in other states can use the same business name that you use, it’s a good possibility that your business name is unavailable.
If that is the case, choose a similar name – but not so similar that you confuse customers and send them to the competition.
To search for a business name on social media platforms, enter the business name in the search box and click the search button. If the business name is available, create a business account as soon as possible, so you are the first one to use the name.
Naming considerations for Maine business entities
Maine has some naming considerations for businesses.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to register with the Maine Secretary of State as long as they use the business owner’s name as the business name. However, should a business owner wish to use a different name – a ‘doing business as‘ or DBA name, he must register the DBA name with the municipal clerk for the local jurisdiction where the business is located.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to the business name:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited company.
Businesses may abbreviate ‘limited’ as “Ltd. ” and ‘company’ as “Co.”
Maine statutes do not list words that a business owner must append to the name of a corporate entity. However, Maine still has rules for corporate names, including the name:
- Cannot imply that the business is organized for any purpose other than permitted by statute.
- Must be distinguishable.
- Must not promote abusive or unlawful activity.
- Must not give the impression that the business is associated with a public institution.
How are business licenses obtained in Maine?
Business licenses are handled at the local town or city level. Visit the Maine.gov page for local jurisdictions.
How long is a trademark valid?
In Maine, a trademark is valid for 10 years. Business owners can renew trademarks during the six months prior to the expiration date.
Does my business need a registered agent?
Yes, if the business is registered with the Maine Secretary of State’s office. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance so that the state does not administratively dissolve it. The registered agent accepts documents from the Secretary of State’s office, service of process, and other legal documents.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
You only need a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) if the business has employees. However, some banks, creditors, and vendors might require you to have a FEIN. It’s free, and you can apply yourself, or we can obtain a FEIN for you.
Does my business have to file an annual report?
Yes. All registered businesses must file an annual report or risk administrative dissolution and possibly fines. Maine offers two options. A business owner can file the annual report without subscribing. However, if the business owner subscribes, she can view previously filed annual reports.
How does a business owner determine if someone filed a lien against business property?
Navigate to Maine’s UCC filing and search page. Tick the radio button for a subscriber account or credit card to start searching UCC filings.
What entity type should I choose for my business?
Only a business owner and his attorney can make that decision. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes entities in different ways. Additionally, some entities offer more protection for personal assets against creditors and lawsuits than others. A business law attorney can explain the legalities of each entity and help you choose which is best for your business and situation.
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