Ohio 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 Ohio business names
Before you can register or reserve an entity name for your business, you must find out if the name is available by completing a business entity search. Ohio makes it easy to search for business names, whether active or inactive. To search the Ohio Secretary of State (SoS) for business names, take the following steps:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Ohio Secretary of State’s search tool.
- Step 2: Enter the business name you wish to search.
- Step 3: Leave the radio button selection set to all. This will bring up any company that has been dissolved. Even if a company is dissolved, you do not want to use the name as it leaves it open for customers to become confused. Additionally, if the dissolved company has a bad reputation, a new business owner does not want that reputation to follow into the new business.
- Step 4: Review the listing. If the search returns zero results and the business name has more than one word other than conjunctions and articles, search just one of the words. For example, if a prospective business owner searches for ‘Yardley Fencing and Landscaping’ and nothing comes up, he might try searching “Yardley” to ensure that another company that does fencing and landscaping and has the name ‘Yardley’ does not exist.
If a business owner is not quite ready to register the business, he can create a name reservation instead. The name must be available for the name reservation to be valid.
How to register a business name in Ohio
To register an Ohio business entity, you must create an account with the Ohio Secretary of State. The business owner needs an email and password to create an account. He also need to input an electronic signature. The person incorporating the business and filing any future reports should enter his name in the electronic signature box. Once a prospective business owner creates an account, she can then register the business name.
Should a prospective business owner wish to file manually, he must make an appointment with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Client Service Center by emailing OhioSoS.gov/appointment. The business owner can also call (877) 767-3453 to ask for a walk-up appointment.
The Ohio Secretary of State also has a dropbox available in the vestibule.
If a business owner decides to file off-line (manually):
- Download the correct form.
- Ensure that the printer is set to print on one side only.
- Paper must be 8.5 by 11 inches.
The Ohio Secretary of State scans all manual filings to convert them to electronic documents. Be sure to print neatly, or your application could be denied.
Finally, you can send completed forms to the PO Box number on the form. Overnight packages must be sent to the Secretary of State, Business Services Division, 180 E. Broad Street, 16th Floor, Columbus, OH, 43215.
Be sure to include a check or money order with the filing fee. Make the check or money order payable to the Ohio Secretary of State
Ohio trademark/DBA name search
In addition to searching the state’s business database, prospective owners should also search the state’s trademark database. A prospective business owner must create an account to register trademarks.
Trademarks filed with the state of Ohio are only good in Ohio – they do not apply to the rest of the United 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.
To search for an Ohio trademark:
- Step 1: Navigate to the Ohio Secretary of State’s business search tool.
- Step 2: Using the menu on the left, choose “Trademark/Servicemark Search.”
- Step 3: Choose ‘Mark Description’ or ‘Mark Registrant Name.’
- Step 4: Enter the business name or logo description that you wish to name your company.
- Step 5: Review the listings, if any.
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.
Having an internet presence could significantly increase your business if a business owner plans on a brick-and-mortar business. If you want to have the same domain and business name, check a domain registry before registering the name with the state. If the name is available in both places, register both immediately.
If a domain name is not available
If the domain name is not available, a prospective business owner has two options:
- Choose another business name that is available with the state and the domain registry.
- Keep the original name, register it at the state, and choose a descriptive name for the domain.
If a business owner chooses a descriptive name, be sure that it adequately describes the business and is not similar to another domain or business name.
Check if the social media name is available
A marketing tool that business owners should not overlook is social media. An owner has many options for advertising online, but using social media is free in most cases. Search the social media sites to determine if the business name is available. If it is, create a profile for that name even if you are not ready to build a social media presence. That will keep others from using the name.
If the business name is being used by another business, a prospective business owner can decide on another name to register at the state level if she wants to keep all names the same. Otherwise, the business owner can use a descriptive name for the social media accounts.
Naming considerations for Ohio business entities
Businesses cannot use certain words in a business name, including:
- Trust; and
- Words that have similar meanings.
If a prospective business would like to use a forbidden word, it must have permission from the superintendent of financial institutions. For example, if a business owner wants to name her company ‘East Bank Shopping Center,’ she must have permission to include the word ‘bank’ in the name.
A business owner forming a cooperative must include one of the following words in the name of the business:
Legal professional associations
A legal professional association must include “Co., LPA” at the end of the name or “A legal professional association” right below the company name.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have to register with the Ohio Secretary of State as long as the business name contains the full personal name of the owner. Partnerships must contain the surname of the partners.
Should a partnership or sole proprietor wish to use a ‘doing business as’ name (DBA), it must register the DBA with the Ohio Secretary of State to ensure that the name is available and so that another person or entity cannot use the name.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
Ohio recently revised the statutes for limited liability companies (January 2022). Before forming an LLC, be sure to review any legal changes to the structure of this entity. When naming an LLC, the business name must include one of the following words or abbreviations:
- Limited liability company;
A limited partnership must include “limited partnership,” “L.P.,” or “Ltd” in the business name. Additionally, a limited partner’s name cannot be part of the name unless the limited partner is also a general partner.
A corporation must include one of the following in its name:
A benefit corporation must include the word ‘benefit’ or the initial ‘B’ in the name. The word or initial is a prefix to any of the words acceptable to regular corporations.
How are business licenses obtained in Ohio?
Navigate to the licenses and permits page on Ohio.gov to determine whether a business is required to have certain licenses.
Does my Ohio business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Yes, all businesses, including sole proprietorships should have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). Business owners can use this number instead of their social security numbers for opening bank accounts and other business transactions. You can apply for a FEIN, or we can obtain the number for you.
Do I have to file a tradename?
No. However, we recommend filing a tradename at the state or federal level. Filing at the state level protects the business name throughout the state while filing at the federal level protects the name in states outside of Ohio.
Is a registered agent mandatory?
Yes. All businesses must have a registered agent. The agent must be available to accept service of process at any time during business hours.
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