If you are forming a business in Washington, 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 Washington 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 Washington Office of the Secretary of State before registering your LLC or Corporation. There is no fee to search.
How to do a Washington Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Step 2: Search your Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Corporation Search” section of the site. In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and then click “Search.” It is recommended to search by “Contains,” “Begins With,” and “Exact Match” 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 Washington, 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 “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “Sew What, LLC.”
While the name “Sew What” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Sew What Seamstress.” Searching for this business name brings a result that says, “No value 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 Washington. 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
- Business Type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Principal Office Street Address – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Status – Active means the entity is in good standing, and all reports and filing fees are up to date. The names of “Inactive” results may be available to register.
- Registered Agent’s information – A 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 Agent, so their home address isn’t publically listed.
- Governors – Names of the entity’s officers.
- You are also able to look up the Certificate of Formation (LLC), Articles of Incorporation (Corp), and Annual Reports.
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 starting a sole proprietorship or partnership, a name search will be needed before selecting a name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in Washington?
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. The name reservation will hold a name for up to 180 days, at the cost of $30.
How do I form a Washtinton 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 a Washington LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Certificate of Formation.
While not required in Washington, 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 Washington business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.