Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts business names
One of the first things a business owner needs to do when setting up a business is to pick a business entity name. However, the name cannot be an exact match to a name already registered with the Secretary of the Commonweatlh of Massachusetts, nor can it be similar.
Business owners should pick three to four names and then conduct a search, starting with the business name that is first on the list. To search for names at the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ website:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ search tool to start entering search criteria.
- Step 2: Ensure the radio button for ‘Entity Name’ is selected under the ‘Search by’ heading.
- Step 3: Enter the name in the box labeled ‘Enter name.’
- Step 4: Leave the search type set to ‘Begins with.’
- Step 5: Click the ‘Search Corporations’ button.
- Step 6: Review the results for exact matches and names that are too similar.
- Step 7: If the system displays a match, repeat the process with the next name on the list.
- Step 8: If the system does not display one or more matches, repeat the search, but change the search type to ‘Full text.’
After checking name availability, the business owner should run additional searches if he wishes to have the same name for social media platforms, trademarks, and a domain name.
How to register a business name in Massachusetts
The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows business owners to register businesses in three ways: Online, via fax, or via mail or hand-delivery.
The easiest and quickest way is to create an account and file the business entity name online.
A business owner can also file by fax by downloading and completing the forms, then faxing the package to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ fax line.
To file by mail or hand-delivery, choose the appropriate entity, then download and complete the forms. Complete the forms. Follow the instructions on the appropriate form for mailing or hand-delivering the registration package.
Massachusetts trademark/DBA name search
A business owner might also wish to file a trademark or service mark in Massachusetts. Filing intellectual property at the state level does not protect others from using it in another state. If the business owner would like to prevent others from using intellectual property related to the business, she must file the intellectual property with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
To search for trademarks and service marks in Massachusetts:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Ensure the radio button for ‘Trademark | Servicemark’ is selected if searching by the name of the trademark or service mark. Choose ‘Mark description’ if searching by descriptive keywords.
- Step 3: Leave the date boxes blank.
- Step 4: Leave ‘Search type’ set to “Contains anywhere.”
- Step 5: Leave ‘Transaction type’ set to “All.”
- Step 6: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Review the results to determine whether the intellectual property you are searching for is available.
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.
If a business plans on an internet presence, the business owner needs to search name availability at a domain registry, such as GoDaddy. Navigate to any search registry and enter the business name in the search box.
If a domain name is not available
If the search finds an exact match, the system will tell the business owner that the name is unavailable and give the searcher alternative names. However, one of the alternatives might be the same name with a different extension. We do not recommend using the same name with a different extension, as customers could become confused and end up on a competitor’s website.
- Choose another business name to name the business.
- Choose a similar name, but not so similar that it confuses customers.
- Choose a name that describes the business offerings.
Check if the social media name is available
Checking for name availability on social media sites is as simple as entering the business name in the platform’s search box. If the search shows that another individual or entity is using the name, a business owner can take the same actions if it finds a domain name is unavailable.
Naming considerations for Massachusetts business entities
Before registering, a business owner must choose an entity type. If the business owner is unsure which type is best for his business, he should speak to a business law attorney. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes some entities at the corporate level and some at the personal level.
Additionally, some entities, such as corporations or limited liability companies, protect the business owner’s personal assets against creditors and lawsuits. Others, such as sole proprietorships and general partnerships, do not provide that protection.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
A business owner who chooses a sole proprietorship or general partnership does not have to register the business with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A business owner must use her surname or the surname of all general partners as the business name.
If the business owner wishes to do business under a fictitious name (sometimes referred to as a ‘trade name,’ or a ‘doing business as’ name (DBA), the business owner must register the DBA name with the city clerk for the city where the business is located.
Before registering the DBA name with the city clerk, a business owner should search the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ business database to ensure the name is available.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner that chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited company.
A business owner that chooses to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
If a business owner chooses to incorporate as a professional corporation, she must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Professional corporation.
How are business licenses obtained in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts does not require businesses to obtain a general business license. However, businesses must apply for a sales tax license if they sell tangible personal property or taxable services. Businesses in certain industries might have to obtain licenses. Mass.gov gets a new business owner started with a license and permit page.
How does a business learn about liens on its business or business property?
Massachusetts has a lien search and a UCC search so that businesses can lookup liens filed against the business or business property.
Does my business need a registered agent?
If a business is registered with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it must have a registered agent. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance (annual reports, etc.) so that it is not administratively dissolved. It also accepts service of process, documents from the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and other legal documents.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
If a business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). However, banks, vendors, and creditors might require a business that does not have employees to obtain a FEIN in order to do business. A business owner can apply for a FEIN, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
Does Massachusetts have a corporate tax?
Yes. The state charges businesses a corporate excise tax. The corporate excise tax rate is based on two types of taxes: An 8-percent tax plus a tax on tangible property or intangible property.
Does my business have to collect sales and use tax?
Yes, if the business sells tangible personal property or taxable services, the business must collect taxes from customers and submit a tax return to the state.
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