Maryland 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 Maryland business names
Maryland makes searching for existing business names easy.
- Step 1: Navigate to the Maryland Business Express page at Maryland.gov’s website.
- Step 2: Enter the name of a business.
- Step 3: If no other business is using the name within the State of Maryland, the business entity search system will tell you that the business name does not exist.
- Step 4: In the name availability results page, if another company is using the name, the system returns a list of names, along with the Department ID and the status. Status might include Active, forfeited, incorporated, or dissolved.
- Step 5: If a company has been dissolved, you could use that name, but we do not recommend it – the name could have a bad reputation attached to it.
Determining whether a business name is available in the state is not the only place a new business owner should check. New business owners should also check for trademarks and name usage on the internet and social media, especially if they intend to have an online presence.
How to register a business name in Maryland
Once a prospective business owner decides on a name, it’s time to register it with the state. Navigate to the Maryland Business Express page to create an account.
While the business owner can conduct a Maryland business entity search without an account, he must create an account to register the business name.
Once logged in, follow the instructions on the site to create an account and register the business name.
Maryland trademark/DBA name search
A prospective business owner has two trademark databases to search, depending on whether he wants to take his business national or just register it in the state.
If the prospective business owner registers it in the state, anyone from another state can use the same name. However, if the prospective business owner registers the trademark at the federal level, no one can use it, regardless of which state they are in.
To learn about businesses possibly using the name you choose, search the Maryland trademarks database search tool. 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 company name, the business owner should take additional steps to ensure that the name is available for domain and social media use. A prospective business owner can look for a new name for the business if he wishes the domain name and social media name to be the same. Or, he can use a descriptive name for the online portion of the business and advertising if giving up the business name he wants to register at the state is not an option.
If a prospective business owner plans on having an online presence, she should check to see if the domain name is available. She can use any domain registry, such as GoDaddy, to check. Once you navigate to the preferred site, enter the business entity name. The system will tell you if another person or company is using the name.
Domain names do not follow the same naming rules as the state. A person or entity could use XYZ.com, while another person or entity could use XYZ.net. While you can certainly use XYZ.net if XYZ.com is taken, we do not recommend it – it is too easy for customers to end up on the other business’s website instead of yours.
If a domain name is not available
Choose a name that describes your business. For example, a pet store might be tempted to use PetsAndStuff.net when someone is already using a dot-com version of the name. Instead, use PetAccessories.com or another name that describes the store.
Check if the social media name is available
A prospective business owner should also check to see if the business name is available on social media. Simply type the business name you want in the search box on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to find out if someone else is already using the name.
Naming considerations for Maryland business entities
Maryland has laws regarding business names, including entity types. You must include the type of entity in the business name for most businesses.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Maryland does not require businesses to register sole proprietorships and general partnerships. However, if a prospective business owner chooses to use a ‘doing business as’ name in addition to his own name, he must register the DBA. For example, if Joe Smith’s accounting business is called Joe Smith DBA Smith’s Accounting, Joe must register Smith’s Accounting as a DBA. Maryland refers to DBA names as “Trading as” names.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
Limited liability companies must include one of the following naming conventions in the business name:
- Limited liability company;
- L.C.; or
Benefit limited liability companies must include one of the following:
- Benefit limited liability company;
- Benefit LLC;
- Benefit L.L.C.;
- Benefit LC; or
- Benefit L.C.
Limited liability partnerships
Limited liability partnerships must include ‘limited liability partnership,’ ‘LLP,’ or ‘L.L.P.’ in the business name.
If the partnership is a limited partnership – not a limited liability partnership, the business name must include ‘limited partnership,’ ‘LP,’ or ‘L.P.’
If the partnership is a limited liability limited partnership, it must include ‘limited liability limited partnership,’ ‘LLLP,’ or ‘L.L.L.P.’
Corporations must include one of the following in the business name:
- Incorporated; or
Benefit corporations must include ‘benefit corporation,’ benefit company,’ or ‘benefit corp.’
For any corporation or benefit corporation using ‘company,’ the word ‘and’ or the symbol ‘&’ cannot precede the word company.
A professional corporation must include one of the following words in the business name:
- Professional association;
- P.C.; or
- Professional corporation.
However, if the professional corporation registered the business name pursuant to §1-406 of Title 1 General Provisions, it does not have to include any of the naming conventions mentioned above.
How are business licenses obtained in Maryland?
To determine whether you need a business license from the Clerk of the Circuit Court, navigate to the Maryland OneStop webpage. Choose the category that applies to you: Professional, Organizational, or Personal. Review the licenses to determine whether the state requires your business to have one.
What is a rush filing, and how much does it cost?
If a new business needs to register its name quickly, it can request a rush filing for an extra $425 expediting fee. The state reviews the filing within three hours if the business owner submits the documentation prior to 2:30 p.m. on a business day. If the filing is submitted outside of business hours, the state reviews it the next day.
Where do I apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number?
You can allow us to apply for the EIN for you, or you can visit the IRS website to apply for it yourself. When you apply for the FEIN, you need information regarding the business, including the document number and your social security number.
How much does it cost to file or renew a trade name (DBA)?
It is $25 to register or renew a trade name.
How much does it cost to register a business?
It depends on the type of business. The filing fees are as follows:
– Limited liability company Articles of Organization: $100
– Corporation – Stock Corporation Articles of Incorporation: $120
– Corporation – Nonstock Corporation Articles of Incorporation: $170
– Corporation – Religious Corporation Articles of Incorporation: $120
– Close Corporation – Articles of Incorporation: $120
– Non-Maryland Corporation or LLC: $100
Do I have to file an annual report?
Yes. All “legal business entities” must file an annual report, including corporations, LLCs, LPs, LLPs, LLLPs, and other legal entities. Credit unions file a Form 3 Annual Report, and financial institutions file a Form 5 Annual Report.
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