Missouri 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 Missouri business names
The first step in registering a new business is to ensure the name is available by conducting a business entity search. In Missouri, a prospective business owner cannot choose a name that is already in use. The business owner also cannot choose a name that is similar to another business’s name. Even if he could, that would be a poor business decision – it is too easy for customers to end up at a competitor’s business.
Additionally, when searching for a name, do not choose a name of a business that has been dissolved, even if it is available. The closed business might have had a bad reputation, and a business owner would not want the reputation associated with the name to come to its door.
To search for an entity name in the State of Missouri:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Missouri Secretary of State search tool.
- Step 2: Change “Business Name” in the dropdown box to “Name Availability.”
- Step 3: Enter the name.
- Step 4: Click the “Search” button.
If no businesses with the name exist, it is available for you to use. If a business is using the name or has a similar name, the system will list the businesses. If another entity is using the name, choose another name. Be sure to search for the new name to ensure that it is also not used.
How to register a business name in Missouri
As of the second quarter of 2022, only businesses that decide to incorporate as a limited liability company can register the business online. The business owner must create an account on the Missouri Secretary of State website to register the LLC.
To register a business by paper filing, download the appropriate forms from the Missouri SoS. Once you click on the form you need, it opens a fillable PDF in the internet browser. Be sure to save the PDF file to the computer before and after completing the document.
Mail the documents and the appropriate filing fee (based on the type of entity you choose) to Corporations Division, PO Box 778, Jefferson City, MO 65102. A prospective business owner may also hand-deliver the documents and appropriate filing fee to Corporations Division, 600 W. Main Street, Room 322, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
The Business Services Division is constantly adding the ability to file other types of entities online, so keep checking if you prefer to file online.
Missouri trademark/DBA name search
The Missouri Secretary of State does not register trade names to reserve a business owner’s rights to exclusive use of the name. However, if a sole proprietor wishes to use a trade name, he must register the trade name with the Missouri Secretary of State as a fictitious name. Additionally, registration of a fictitious name does not give the registrant exclusive rights.
However, a business owner can register a trademark with the United State Patent and Trademark Office. If the application is accepted, the trademark is protected in all states, including Missouri. 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.
Even if a business does not plan to sell its services or products online, it is good marketing to have an online presence. Check a domain registry such as GoDaddy to see if the business name is available. Domain registries do not have the same restrictions as registering at the state level. You might find that someone is using the exact or similar business name that is available at the Missouri Secretary of State – usually in another state.
If a domain name is not available
If another business is using the name, choose a name that describes the business or decide on another business name. You do not want to use a similar name as your customers could end up on the other business’s website.
Additionally, if the business name is not available as a dot-com but is available as a dot-net, you still do not want to use it as it could cause you to lose customers.
Check if the social media name is available
Anyone can use any name on social media, even the same name. A prospective business owner setting up a business does not want the same name as another business, even on social media. To search the social media sites, simply enter the business name in the search box to see if it comes up as being used.
If not, create an account for the business name immediately. If someone is using the name, use a name that describes the business. For example, a business named XYZ Widgets might choose BestWidgetsMO.
Naming considerations for Missouri business entities
Missouri’s name conventions are the same for all companies, except for the naming conventions. No company may use a company name that is already in use, nor can the name be similar to another name. A company also cannot use a name that implies that it is a government agency. Furthermore, even if the existing businesses are dissolved, a business owner should consider choosing a different business name.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
If a prospective business owner chooses to conduct business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, she does not need to register the business name with the Missouri Secretary of State. However, if a sole proprietor or general partnership wishes to do business under a fictitious name (‘doing business as’ or DBA name), it must register the fictitious name. Business owners can register a fictitious name through the Business Portal.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A limited liability company must use one of the following in an LLC name:
- Limited liability company;
- LC; or
If the LLC incorporates as a corporation or a partnership, it cannot use the following:
- Limited liability partnership;
- Limited partnership;
- Ltd.; or
- Limited liability limited partnership.
I also cannot use any abbreviations related to the above-listed terms.
Unlike general partnerships, a business owner must register a limited partnership. The name must include “limited partnership,” “LP,” or “L.P.” A limited partnership cannot contain the name of a limited partner unless the limited partner is also a general partner.
Limited liability limited partnership
A limited liability limited partnership must include one of the following in its name:
- Registered limited liability limited partnership;
- L.L.L.P. or
A corporation must contain one of the following in its name:
- Limited; or
Nonprofits corporations follow the same naming conventions.
How are business licenses obtained in Missouri?
Missouri does not require a business to obtain a business license at the state level. However, counties and cities might require a business to obtain a business license. Check with the county and city where the business is located for licensing requirements.
How long is a fictitious name valid in Missouri?
A business must renew a fictitious name every five years. The business owner can renew the fictitious name starting six months prior to the expiration date.
Why is someone else using the fictitious name I chose?
Missouri does not guarantee exclusivity for fictitious names. However, the state requires you to register a fictitious name.
Why can’t I find my business using the search feature?
The search tool is fussy about spaces and punctuation. Try entering fewer words or characters.
What is a Certificate of Good Standing and do I need one?
A Certificate of Good Standing shows potential creditors and banks that the business is:
– Properly registered;
– Up to date on state registration fees;
– Up to date on all required document filings; and
– Legally permitted to engage in business activities in Missouri.
Does my business have to have a registered agent?
Yes. All businesses registered with the Missouri Secretary of State must have a registered agent. While a business owner can be his own registered agent, we recommend that you use a service for this as registered agents must be in the office during all regular business hours.
What does a registered agent do?
A registered agent accepts services of process and other legal documents from courts and the Secretary of State. It may also accept other legal documents. The registered agent then forwards the documents to the business.
Do I have to file a name reservation before registering a business?
No. Name reservations are not required. Small businesses often reserve a name to hold it if they are not ready to incorporate it yet.
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