The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in West Virginia is to check and see whether the name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the 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 Secretary of State Business Entity Name Database.
How To Do A West Virginia Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Organization Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Cleaning Queens.”
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Cleaning Queens.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in West Virginia, 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 link in the “Details” column to see a detailed report.
While the name “Cleaning Queens” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Cleaning Queens of West Virginia.” Searching for this company name brings a result that says “No Records Found.” 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 show up as available but won’t be approved.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in West Virginia. 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 name database?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Entity Type – Organization type such as Corporation, Limited Liability Company, etc.
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing, and all reports and filing fees are up to date. “Inactive” results may be available to register. A Certificate of Existence is also available.
- Principal Office Address – This could be the physical address of the business, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Effective Date – Date the entity first became active with the state.
- Filing Date – Date the entity was first filed with the Secretary of State
- Officer Name – Names of the officers and their title
How to Register a Trade Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
A DBA, also known as “Doing Business As,” Trade Name, Assumed Name, or Fictitious Name, is a name used by a business that is different from the legal name of the business. This name is often referred to as a Trade Name in West Virginia.
When a business wants to operate under a name other than its legal name, the state of West Virginia, like most states, requires the business to register the business name. The registration requirement was designed to protect consumers from business owners hiding anonymously behind the name of a business.
The names of sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in West Virginia?
The LLC’s name must include a descriptor at the end of the business name to describe its type of business entity. Available name endings include the following words or abbreviations:
- Limited Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
- Limited Company
- Ltd. Company
- Ltd. Co.
A comma may be used after the business name and before the name ending. “Cowboy Cleaners LLC” and “Cowboy Cleaners, LLC” are both acceptable.
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 Name Reservation. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 120 days, at the cost of $15.
How do I form an LLC?
Before forming an LLC, be sure to check for business name availability as each business entity must not already be registered with the state. Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form a West Virginia LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in West Virginia, an Operating Agreement, which contains the rules for how the LLC operates, may be 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 West Virginia business licenses and permits to make sure the business is legal to operate.