Secretary of State of Vermont
128 State St., Montpelier, VT 05633
How to Do a Vermont Business Search:
Before starting a business, you will need to ensure that your chosen business name is available. Simply go to the Vermont Secretary of State (SOS) official website and use the business search tool to check if your name is already in use by another company.
Conduct a Vermont business search online.
Use the Vermont online business search tool.
The Vermont SOS website has a business search tool that enables users to search a 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.
Check the relevant boxes.
You need not worry about checking any box on the left-hand column other than "Business Name." Ignore the rest. To the right of the search field is another check-box titled "Show me similar sounding business names." Check this one too. This is a useful way of including any business names that are closely related to your proposed name in the query.
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.
Perform a name search.
Checking the "Contains" box is a good place to start. This option shows you businesses that include the word you're searching for, in any order in the business name. Type in your keyword only (for example, "bar") and your search will generate a list of businesses registered in Vermont that are competing with your name. This is a good way of understanding how similar businesses are named or worded. You cannot tick the "Show me similar sounding business names" box when doing a "Contains" search.
The next step is to check the "Exact Match" box and search your exact proposed business name. This will tell you if the name you want is already in use. If no results surface, it's a promising sign.
A status that reads "Inactive" or "Expired" is not to be seen as free to use. In most cases, businesses have a window period in which to reinstate these names. If you want to query the status of an "Inactive" or "Expired" name, contact the Vermont SOS.
Names in this database are not checked against fictitious business names or any trademarks. You will need to conduct these searches separately.
Additional Vermont business search steps.
Perform trademark searches.
The final step in searching your business name is to run it against both the Vermont trademark registration 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 Vermont 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 proposed name passes the USPTO database query too.
Reserve your business name.
You might want to reserve a business name if you've determined that your proposed name is available to use but you aren't ready to register a business just yet. A business name can be reserved for up to 120 days and may be renewed if necessary. Applications should be submitted to the Secretary of State's office.
A business name reservation does not qualify you to do business under that name in Vermont. You will need to register your business name before you can start operations.
Search social media platforms.
You'll want to ensure that the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter handles for your proposed name are available, 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.