If you are forming an LLC or a corporation in Oregon, the first thing 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 Oregon 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 Oregon Secretary of State before registering your LLC or Corporation. There is no fee to search.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in Oregon
How to do an Oregon Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Oregon Secretary of State Website
Go to the Oregon Secretary of State website.
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Express Lawn Service” and click “Search for Business Name.” It is recommended to start your search with the “Business Name Availability Check” first but then try “Exact words in any word order,” “Sound-alike words in any word order,” and “Extended Search in any word order” to search your name thoroughly.
Step 3: Review Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Sew What.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Oregon, 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.
Be sure to look at the “Entity Status” column for the words “ACT.” This denotes a business that is in good standing. If you see “INA,” that business is no longer active, and the name may be available.
To find more information about any of the registered business names, click on the link in the “Name” column to see a detailed report.
While the name “Express Lawn Service” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Express Lawn Service of Oregon” or “Portland Express Lawn Services” are. Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “There were 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 Oregon. 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.
- Status – “ACT” Means the entity is in good standing and all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “INA” for inactive, “IP” for In Process, “NON” for Nonfileable, and “UNF” for Unfiled. The names of these inactive results may be available to register.
- Registry Date – Date the entity was first filed with the Secretary of State.
- Principal Place of Business – This could be the physical address of the business, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Registered Agent’s information – An Oregon Registered 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 Agents, so their home address isn’t listed.
- The entity’s Articles of Organization / Articles of Incorporation and Annual Reports are available to view.
How to Register a Fictitious Business 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 Fictitious Business Name, which is also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, Assumed Name, or Trade Name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Oregon?
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 Name Reservation with the Oregon Secretary of State, Corporations Division. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 120 days, at a cost of $100.
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 Oregon LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in Oregon, 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 Oregon business licenses and permits to make sure the business is legal to operate.