North Carolina Secretary of State
2 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601-2903
How to Do a North Carolina Business Search:
Before starting a business, you will need to ensure that your chosen business name is available. Simply go to the North Carolina SOS website and use the business search tool to check if your name is already in use by another company.
Conduct a North Carolina business search online.
Use the North Carolina online business search tool.
The North Carolina SOS website has a business search tool that enables users to search the database of every registered business in the state. New businesses can use this tool to query the availability of their proposed name against businesses that already exist.
Make a list of alternative spellings or similar versions of your proposed name to ensure that your name is entirely new and distinguishable from competitors.
Choose the "Company" option.
The "Select what you want to search" option offers four search filters: "Company," "Registered Agents," "Company Officials," and "Assumed Business Names." Choose "Company" and ignore the rest for now, as your main priority is to find a potential match for your proposed name.
Perform a search.
The "Select how you want to search" option offers five search filters: "Starting With," "Any Words," "All Words," "Exact," and "SOSID." Try the first four and ignore the last option. The broader your name search, the more chance you have of finding a match.
Start by searching only the main keyword from your business name (for example, "grocery"). This will give you an overview of North Carolinian businesses competing with that word and how they're named. Remember to try as many variations of your proposed name as possible.
A search that yields no results is a good first sign on the path to confirming the availability of your proposed name.
Choose the "Assumed Business Names" option.
When you've completed your company name search, go back to the "Select what you want to search" option and select "Assumed Business Names." This option searches your proposed name against businesses that are registered under an assumed name. Follow the same search strategies as above.
Additional North Carolina business search steps.
Perform trademark searches.
The final step in searching your business name is to run it against both the North Carolina Trademark / Service Mark database and the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) trademark database.
A name that is free to use does not guarantee ownership of intellectual property. Likewise, a name that is free to use in North Carolina might be a trademarked name at the federal level, which can lead to legal trouble in the future. You'll want to ensure that your preferred name passes the USPTO database query too.
Search social media platforms.
You'll want to ensure that the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter handles for your proposed name is not taken, for the sake of consistency across your marketing channels. Search your proposed name on these platforms and think of creative alternatives should they already be in use.
Reserve your business name.
You do not need to register your business name immediately. You can choose to reserve it for 120 days before officially claiming it. The cost to reserve a business name is $30.00.
There is no online method for reserving a business name, so you'll need to mail the SOS your application. Download and fill out the "Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name" form to apply by mail. The mailing address and instructions are at the bottom of the page.
How do I find out if a business name is available in North Carolina?
Does it cost anything to do a business search in North Carolina?
Searching a business name in North Carolina is entirely free, although it costs $30.00 to reserve a name.
How do I reserve a business name in NC?
You can apply to reserve a name by completing and mailing the name reservation application form to the Secretary of State. Names can be reserved for 120 days and the filing fee is $30.00.