If you are forming a business in Ohio, the of the first things you need to do is a business name search. This search checks all the registered business entities in the state to see if the business name you want to use is available. Like all other states, the state of Ohio requires each LLC or corporation registered in the state to have a unique business name. So, before starting your business, it’s important to run a business entity search to verify if the name is available through the Ohio Secretary of State before registering your LLC or Corporation. There is no fee to search.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Ohio
How to do an Ohio Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Ohio Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Business Name” field. In this example, we will look up “A1 Yard & Lawn” and click “Search.” It is recommended to keep the search for all results as inactive listings may not yet be able to re-register.
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “A1 Yard & Lawn”. To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Ohio, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name, you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.
To find more information about any of the registered business names, click on the “Show Details” button.
While the name “A1 Yard & Lawn” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “A1 Yard & Lawn of Ohio” are. Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “There were no records found.” While final approval is still with the Secretary of State, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Ohio. Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Secretary of State will make a final determination at the time of filing to ensure the name you picked isn’t too similar to other registered names.
Something to also keep in mind is that even though each Corporation and LLC name must be unique, it may not stop someone else from using that name since business names for a sole proprietorship or partnership are not registered by the Secretary of State and are not required to be unique. To protect your business name, consider getting a trademark.
Related: Should I trademark my business name?
What information can be looked up in the database?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Filing Type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Original Filing Date – Date the entity was filed with the Secretary of State.
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing, and all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “Cancelled” or “Dead,” among others. The names of these inactive results may be available to register.
- Registered Agent’s information – An Ohio Statutory Agent is the singular point of contact for the entity should a legal, or tax notice need to be sent to the business. This is often one of the owners, and if their home address is used, that address becomes public information. Many people find this concerning and use a Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent, so their home address isn’t publically listed.
- Images of the Articles of Organization (LLC), Articles of Incorporation (Corp), Amendments, and more are available to view as well.
How to Register a Trade Name (Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships)
A sole proprietorship or partnership operating their business under a name that is different from the owner’s legal name will register for a Trade Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Assumed Name, or Fictitious Business Name.
Before registering, a name search will be required, as outlined above.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Ohio?
In addition to the name being unique, the name of the LLC must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, LLC, L.L.C., etc., in addition to not using restricted words such as bank or insurance, unless the entity is licensed to operate as such.
Can an LLC name be reserved?
If there is a name you want but are not ready to register the LLC, you can file the Name Reservation form (Form 534B). The name reservation will hold a name for up to 180 days, at the cost of $39.
How do I form an LLC?
Before starting your business and forming an LLC, be sure to do the business entity search first to make sure the name is available to use. Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form an Ohio LLC by reading our step-by-step guide.
While not required in Ohio, an Operating Agreement, which contains the rules for how the LLC operates, is a document worth considering, especially for multi-member LLCs.
After forming a Limited Liability Company, be sure to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is a “social security number” for the business. There is no cost to get one through the IRS.
Also, be sure to check for Ohio business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.