North Carolina Business Name Search

Starting a business in North Carolina is an exciting venture, but before you dive headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship, it’s crucial to perform a business name search.

This process ensures that your chosen business name is unique and compliant with the legal requirements of the state.

To get started, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State website, where you’ll find valuable resources and tools for business registration.

Let’s explore the importance of a business name search and the steps involved in conducting one in North Carolina.

Understanding the Business Name Search Process

What is a Business Name Search?

A business name search is the process of checking whether a particular business name is available for use within a specific jurisdiction, in this case, North Carolina. It’s a crucial step for anyone looking to start a new business as it helps prevent naming conflicts and potential legal issues down the road.

Why is it Crucial Before Starting a Business?

Performing a business name search is essential for several reasons:

  1. Legal Compliance: North Carolina law mandates that your business name must be distinguishable from existing businesses operating within the state. Ensuring compliance avoids legal complications in the future.
  2. Branding and Identity: Your business name is a significant part of your brand identity. A unique and memorable name can help your business stand out in the market.
  3. Online Presence: It’s essential to check domain name availability since your online presence is crucial in today’s digital age.

To begin your business name search in North Carolina, visit the Business Entity Search page on the North Carolina Secretary of State website.

Preparing for Your Business Name Search

Before you dive into the search process, take the time to prepare. Here are some steps to consider:

Define Your Business Identity

Your business name should reflect your brand’s identity and values. Consider what message you want to convey to your target audience. A well-chosen name can leave a lasting impression.

Determine Your Preferred Business Name

Brainstorm and create a list of potential business names. Be creative but also keep in mind that the name should be easy to remember and spell. Avoid names that are too similar to existing businesses in North Carolina.

Consider Trademark and Domain Availability

Beyond just ensuring your business name is available for registration, check if it’s available for trademark registration. This step helps protect your brand’s identity on a broader scale. Additionally, check if the corresponding domain name is available for your business website.

Conducting a Business Name Search in North Carolina

Now that you’ve prepared, it’s time to perform your business name search in North Carolina. You can do this through the North Carolina Secretary of State website, which offers a user-friendly online tool. Here’s how:

Online Search through the North Carolina Secretary of State Website

  1. Visit the Business Entity Search page.
  2. Enter the name you want to check in the search bar.
  3. The tool will display a list of businesses with names similar to the one you entered. This will help you determine if your chosen name is available.

For an in-depth guide on using the online search tool, visit the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Business Registration page.

In-Person Search at the North Carolina Secretary of State Office

If you prefer to conduct your search in person, you can visit the North Carolina Secretary of State office in Raleigh. Their address and contact information can be found on their official website.

Professional Assistance and Third-Party Services

If you’re unsure about conducting the search yourself or need assistance with the process, consider consulting with a legal professional or using third-party business name search services that specialize in North Carolina.

Registering Your Business Name

After successfully conducting a business name search in North Carolina, the next crucial step is registering your chosen business name. This ensures that your business name is legally protected and can be used for your entrepreneurial endeavors. Here’s what you need to know:

A. Reservation of Business Name

1. Purpose and Process

  • Purpose: Reservation of your business name serves as a temporary hold on the name you’ve chosen. It prevents others from registering a business under the same name while you complete the necessary steps for business formation.
  • Process: To reserve your business name in North Carolina, you can file a Name Reservation Form with the North Carolina Secretary of State. This can typically be done online through the Secretary of State’s website. The form will require you to provide your chosen business name and contact information.

2. Duration of Name Reservation

  • Once approved, the name reservation is typically valid for 120 days. During this time, you’ll need to complete the formal business registration process to secure your business name for the long term.

B. Steps for Registering Your Business Name in North Carolina

To register your business name and make it official, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Your Business Structure: Decide on the legal structure of your business, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, or partnership. Your choice will impact the registration process and your business’s legal obligations.
  2. Complete the Necessary Business Registration Forms: Visit the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Business Registration page to access the appropriate forms for your business structure. These forms typically require information about your business, its owners, and its operations.
  3. Submit Required Fees: Be prepared to pay the necessary filing fees associated with your business structure. The fee amounts can vary, so check the Secretary of State’s website for the most up-to-date fee schedule.
  4. File Your Business Registration Documents: Submit your completed forms and fees to the Secretary of State’s office. You can usually do this online, by mail, or in person at their office in Raleigh.
  5. Obtain Any Necessary Permits and Licenses: Depending on your business type and location, you may need additional permits or licenses. Check with local and state authorities to ensure compliance.

Protecting Your Business Name

A. Trademark Registration

1. Importance of Trademark Protection

  • Brand Identity: Registering your business name as a trademark provides strong legal protection for your brand identity. It prevents others from using a similar name that could confuse consumers.
  • Market Exclusivity: A registered trademark grants you exclusive rights to use the name for your goods and services, giving your business a competitive edge.
  • Legal Recourse: If someone infringes on your trademark, you have the legal right to take action against them, which can help safeguard your reputation and market position.

2. Process and Benefits

  • The process of trademark registration in North Carolina involves filing an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can find detailed information and resources on the USPTO’s website.

B. Domain Registration and Online Presence

  • In today’s digital age, securing your business name as a domain is essential. Register a domain name that matches your business name as closely as possible.
  • Ensure a strong online presence through a professional website and active engagement on social media platforms. This enhances your visibility and credibility in the market.

Tips for Choosing a Unique and Memorable Business Name

A. Branding Considerations

  • A memorable business name should resonate with your target audience and convey your brand’s values and mission.
  • Consider consulting with a branding expert to ensure your name aligns with your overall brand strategy.

B. Legal and SEO-Friendly Name Tips

  • Choose a name that is legally available and distinguishable from existing businesses in North Carolina.
  • Opt for a name that is easy to spell and remember to enhance its online search visibility.

C. Ensuring Long-Term Relevance

  • Think long-term when selecting your business name. Avoid trendy or location-specific names that might limit your business’s growth potential.


In conclusion, conducting a thorough business name search and following the proper steps for registration in North Carolina is a fundamental aspect of starting a successful business. It not only ensures legal compliance but also sets the stage for brand protection and growth. Remember that your business name is an integral part of your identity, so choose wisely and invest in its protection.

Next Steps:

  • Complete your business name reservation if necessary.
  • Register your business with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
  • Explore trademark registration for enhanced brand protection.

Additional Resources

For more information and access to relevant forms, visit the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Business Registration page.

For trademark registration, consult the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


1. Can I change my business name after it’s been registered in North Carolina?

Answer: Yes, you can change your business name after registration in North Carolina, but it involves a formal process. You’ll need to file an amendment with the North Carolina Secretary of State, which typically requires the approval of your business’s governing body (such as shareholders or members). Keep in mind that changing your business name may have legal and branding implications, so it’s essential to carefully consider the decision.

2. Is a federal trademark registration required if I’ve already registered my business name in North Carolina?

Answer: No, a federal trademark registration is not mandatory if you’ve registered your business name in North Carolina. Registering your business name with the state offers protection within the state’s jurisdiction. However, if you plan to do business outside North Carolina or want nationwide protection for your brand, it’s advisable to consider federal trademark registration through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

3. What happens if my chosen business name is already in use in North Carolina?

Answer: If your chosen business name is already in use in North Carolina, you will need to select an alternative name that is distinguishable from existing businesses in the state. The North Carolina Secretary of State’s office will not approve a name that is too similar to an existing entity. Conduct another business name search to find an available and unique name that complies with the state’s naming regulations.

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