The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in Rhode Island is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the Rhode Island Secretary of State must use a unique name. See our step-by-step guide to learn how to quickly search available names by using the state’s Business Entity Database.
How To Do A Rhode Island Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Go to the Rhode Island Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search for a Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Search by entity name” field. In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and click “Name Availability Check.” It is recommended to search by “Begins With,” “Exact Match,” and “Full Text” in the drop-down menu to search your name thoroughly.
Step 3: Review the Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “The Pool Guy.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Rhode Island, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. The word “The” isn’t considered a distinguishable word, so “Pool Guy LLC” wouldn’t be available either. 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 link in the “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “The Pool Guy LLC.”
While the name “The Pool Guy” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “The Pool Guy of Rhode Island.” Searching for this business name brings a result that says, “No records found; try a new search using different criteria.” Even if the name looks like it is available, the Secretary of State will do their own search to avoid confusing potential customers with a business name that sounds like someone else’s. Typically words that sound alike but are spelled differently, and even abbreviations will make names appear as available but won’t be approved.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in Rhode Island. 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
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Date of Organization – Date the entity was first filed with the Secretary of State
- Effective Date – A business entity can elect to start at a date up to 90 days after filing if desired.
- Principal Address – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Resident Agent’s information – A Resident Agent in Rhode Island 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 Agents, so their home address isn’t listed.
- Purpose – A brief description of what the business does.
- NAICS – Classification system used to identify and research industries.
- Filings such as the Annual Report and Articles of Organization are available to view as well.
How to Register a Trade Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Rhode Island. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the Town or County Clerk’s office where the business is located.
To register, 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 Name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Rhode Island?
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 Application for Reservation of Entity Name with the Department of State – Business Services Division. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 120 days, at the cost of $50.
How do I form an LLC in Rhode Island?
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 a Rhode Island LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island business licenses and permits to make sure the business is legal to operate.