West Virginia 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 West Virginia business names
Before registering a business in West Virginia, a business owner must conduct a business entity name search to ensure that the business name is available. The West Virginia Secretary of State will not allow a business owner to register a name that is an exact match with another business name, nor will it allow names that are too similar.
The West Virginia Secretary of State has one search type – to search by company name. To start entering search criteria to determine name availability:
- Step 1: Navigate to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office search tool.
- Step 2: Enter the business entity name in the box labeled ‘Organization Name.’
- Step 3: Click the ‘Search’ button.
- Step 4: Review the search results. If an exact match exists, the business owner must choose a different name.
Similar names include those with the exact name but a different entity type at the end of the business name. For example, ABC Widgets, Inc. and ABC Widgets, LLC are too similar. Additionally, if the difference is a small word, such as an article, the name is too similar. For example, The ABC Widget Company and An ABC Widget Company are too similar.
How to register a business name in West Virginia
The West Virginia Secretary of State’s office allows business owners to file business entities online or via paper filings. Online filing is the quickest and easiest.
When a business owner files online, the business owner is also registered with the West Virginia State Tax Department for sales and use tax and other taxes, and WorkForce West Virginia for unemployment compensation.
Businesses must first obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) before registering with West Virginia’s OneStop business portal. A business owner can apply for the FEIN, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business owner.
If a business owner wishes to register by paper registration, the business owner needs to contact all of the relevant state agencies to complete the separate applications and pay separate filing fees.
West Virginia trademark/DBA name search
Business owners can also register a trademark with West Virginia. As with business entity names, trademarks cannot be an exact match to another business’s trademark. To determine whether a business trademark is unique:
- Step 1: Navigate to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Click “Show Advanced Search Options.”
- Step 3: Locate “Words” at the bottom of the list.
- Step 4: Click “Add this Search Option.” A new box will open.
- Step 5: Enter the keywords describing the business trademark.
- Step 6: Click the ‘Search’ button.
- Step 7: Review the results for exact matches and marks that are too similar.
If a business owner finds a trademark or service mark that is an exact match or that is too similar, the business owner should design a new mark.
Registering intellectual property in West Virginia only protects the mark from being used in West Virginia. If the business owner wishes to protect the intellectual property from being used by anyone else throughout the United States, the business owner must file the intellectual property with the US 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.
Creating a website helps a business by providing low-cost marketing, even if the business does not sell its product online. Before a business can create a website, it needs a domain name. The business cannot use a domain name that is already in use. However, though we don’t recommend it, businesses can use similar names.
The issue with domain names is that it is worldwide instead of statewide. Thus, someone in another state or even in another country could be using a business owner’s business name.
To search for a domain name, navigate to any domain registry. Enter the business name in the search box. If a name is available as a dot-com, we recommend registering it as soon as possible. We also recommend registering the dot-org and dot-net extensions. Dot-us and dot-store extensions are also popular. The business owner can use the extra pages to create landing pages that point customers to the main dot-com page.
Check if the social media name is available
Another avenue of free or inexpensive advertising is social media platforms. To check for name availability on any social media platform, enter the business name in the search box. As with domain names, social media accounts are worldwide, so there is a big possibility that someone else is using the business name. Review the results after clicking the ‘Search’ button.
A business owner could change the name to try to find a company name that is available on the Secretary of State’s website, a domain registry website, and social media platforms. Or, a business could create a descriptive name for the business’s social media accounts.
Naming considerations for West Virginia business entities
As with other states, West Virginia requires most business entities to append certain phrases, words or abbreviations at the end of the business name to denote entity type.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
A business owner who chooses a sole proprietorship or general partnership does not have to register with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. Thus, they do not have to append an entity type at the end of the name. However, if either wishes to use a fictitious name, they need to register the fictitious name with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. The business owner doesn’t need to append an entity type at the end of a fictitious name.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
Business owners who choose to incorporate as a limited liability company must append certain phrases, words or abbreviations at the end of their business names, including:
- Limited liability company.
- Limited company.
Business owners may also abbreviate ‘limited’ as “Ltd.” and ‘company’ as “Co.”
Limited Liability Partnerships
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability partnership must appened certain phrases, words, or abbreviations at the end of the business name, including:
- Registered limited liability partnership.
Business owners who choose to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following at the end of the business name:
A nonprofit company must include the naming conventions as dictated by the entity type. For example, it if is a corporation, it must include the same conventions as a corporation. If it is a limited liability company, it must include the same naming convention as an LLC.
How are business licenses obtained in West Virginia?
West Virginia requires businesses to have a seller’s permit. Each location must have its own permit. The permit is permanent until the business owner changes the legal name of the business, the business location, or the business ownership changes. The certificate may also be revoked or suspended by the Tax Commissioner.
Does my business need a registered agent?
If the business is registered with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, it needs a registered agent. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance with state regulations and accepts service of process and other legal documents on behalf of the business.
How do I know if a vendor or creditor put a lien on business property or on my business?
A business owner can search the UCC database to locate liens on the business or certain business property.
Does West Virginia offer help to start a company?
The Secretary of State’s office cannot give legal advice. If you are not sure how to start a company, including choosing an entity type, seek the advice of a business law attorney. Otherwise, West Virginia offers a New Business Startup Wizard.
If I register by paper, where do I find all the other registrations I need for my business?
West Virginia has a page with links to all of the other agencies a business owner needs to register with, including the West Virginia State Tax Department, WorkForce West Virginia, West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner, and the West Virginia Division of Labor.
How do I find the forms to file by paper?
Navigate to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s form search page to locate the forms you need.
Does my business have to file an annual report?
Yes. All businesses registered with the Secretary of State must file an annual report and other required business filings.
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