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How to Register a Business Name in Rhode Island – 2023 Guide

    How to Register a Business Name in Rhode Island
    (Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

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    Looking to establish your business in the Ocean State? Register a business name in Rhode Island is a fundamental step towards building your brand identity and ensuring legal compliance. Rhode Island offers a straightforward and efficient registration process, accommodating various business structures like LLCs, corporations, and trade names. 

    In this guide, we’ll take you through the necessary steps to register your business name, providing you with the confidence to embark on your entrepreneurial journey in Rhode Island. For added convenience and expert support, consider utilizing ZenBusiness to navigate the registration process seamlessly. Let’s set the stage for your business success in the enchanting state of Rhode Island!

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    4 Steps to Register Your Business Name in Rhode Island

    Establishing your business name in Rhode Island is a vital undertaking to solidify your entrepreneurial venture in the state. To simplify the registration process, follow these four easy steps to officially register your business name in Rhode Island:

    Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in Rhode Island

    In Rhode Island, the success and growth of your business largely depend on selecting the appropriate business structure that suits its nature and your expansion plans. Let’s explore the different options available for incorporated and unincorporated businesses in the state.

    If your chosen structure requires incorporation, you must register your business with the Rhode Island Secretary of State. Below are the various business structures and their operational mechanisms:

    Sole Proprietorship

    The simplest business structure in Rhode Island is the sole proprietorship, where the business and its owner are considered the same legal entity. As a sole proprietor, you assume personal responsibility for the business’s debts and liabilities. Establishing a sole proprietorship is straightforward, with minimal legal and administrative requirements. Although registration with the state isn’t mandatory for a sole proprietorship, you might need to obtain local permits or licenses.

    General Partnership

    A general partnership involves two or more individuals sharing both profits and losses of the business. Each partner bears personal liability for the business’s debts and legal obligations. While you aren’t required to register a general partnership with the state, you may need to file a “Rhode Island Assumed Business Name Certificate” (DBA) in the county where your business is located.

    Limited Partnership (LP)

    An LP in Rhode Island consists of one or more general partners who have unlimited personal liability for the business and one or more limited partners who contribute capital but have limited liability. To establish an LP in Rhode Island, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Rhode Island Secretary of State.

    Limited Liability Company (LLC)

    An LLC is a flexible business structure that offers liability protection like a corporation and the tax advantages and simplicity of a partnership. To set up an LLC in Rhode Island, you need to file an “Articles of Organization Limited Liability Company” with the Rhode Island Secretary of State and create an Operating Agreement outlining the company’s management and ownership structure.


    A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) and provides limited liability protection. There are two types of corporations in Rhode Island: C-corporations and S-corporations. 

    To establish a corporation, you must file either “Articles of Incorporation For-Profit Corporation” or “Articles of Incorporation Nonprofit Corporation” with the Rhode Island Secretary of State, depending on your business type. Corporations involve more formalities, such as creating bylaws, issuing stock, and conducting regular board and shareholder meetings.

    Select the business structure in Rhode Island that best aligns with your requirements in terms of liability protection, taxation, and management. Seek advice from legal or business professionals if you need assistance in making this decision.

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    Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name in Rhode Island 

    When it comes to registering a business name in Rhode Island, there are several avenues available to entrepreneurs. You can opt for a legal entity name, secure a trademark, or register a legal name and operate under a different one. However, the regulations governing business naming can vary from state to state, making it crucial to understand the specific requirements in Rhode Island.

    Selecting the right method for naming your business in Rhode Island depends on your unique needs and circumstances. While pursuing all three approaches can ensure the exclusivity of your chosen name, you may also choose a single method. Nevertheless, maintaining consistency across all registration methods by using the same name is generally advisable.

    Now, let’s delve deeper into each naming option available in Rhode Island:

    In Rhode Island, businesses are required to register a legal entity name, which serves as the official identifier recognized by the state. To protect your name from potential duplication by other businesses, it must be unique and comply with the state’s naming regulations, including specific company suffixes (e.g., LLC, LP, Corp) that accurately reflect the type of business being registered. You can verify name availability by consulting the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s database.


    Obtaining a trademark in Rhode Island provides intellectual property protection for your business name or logo on a national scale. Before proceeding with registration, it’s essential to conduct a thorough search in the USPTO database to ensure that the name or logo you wish to safeguard isn’t already registered. With successful trademark registration, you gain exclusive rights to the name or logo, preventing others from using a similar name or logo for similar goods or services nationwide. However, it’s important to note that a trademark doesn’t automatically grant universal usage rights for the name or logo in all circumstances.

    Operating Under a Different Name (DBA)

    Rhode Island offers the option to register your business under an official name while operating under a different name, commonly known as a Doing Business As (DBA) name. Establishing a DBA requires filing an Assumed Business Name Certificate with the appropriate county clerk’s office in the county where your business is located. Unlike legal entity names and trademarks, a DBA does not have to be unique at the state level, although federal trademark laws still apply to these names.

    By understanding and carefully considering these naming options, you can effectively register your business name in Rhode Island while safeguarding your brand identity. Remember to comply with the state’s specific requirements and seek legal advice if needed to make informed decisions about your business name.

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    Step 3: Check Business Name Availability in Rhode Island

    Before registering your business, it’s essential to check if the desired name is already in use. To do this, you must conduct three types of searches:

    Begin by performing a federal trademark search to ensure that your preferred business name isn’t already trademarked. Federal trademarks take precedence over state-level registrations, so if your chosen name is already trademarked, you’ll need to come up with an alternative.

    To conduct a federal trademark search, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and use the TESS Search tool.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    After confirming that your name isn’t trademarked, proceed to verify its availability within Rhode Island. Utilize the Rhode Island Corporate Database tool to search for registered business names in the state.

    In this search, check not only for your exact business name’s availability but also for any significantly similar business names in use.

    Once you have ensured that your business name isn’t trademarked and is available for use in Rhode Island, consider conducting a domain search to check if the .com version of your business name is available. While not every business may require a website, it’s advisable to secure the .com domain for your business name if possible.

    Registering the .com version of your business name with ZenBusiness ensures exclusive ownership and protection against others using the same website name. 

    Step 4: Form Your Business With the State of Rhode Island

    After finalizing your business structure and choosing a name, the next step is to formally register your business with the State of Rhode Island. The registration process depends on whether you have an LLC or a corporation.

    To form an LLC, you will need to file the Articles of Organization with the Rhode Island Department of State. This can be done either online or by mail. On the other hand, if you have a corporation, you’ll need to submit the Articles of Incorporation to the Rhode Island Division of Business Services.

    You May Also Want to Know

    Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark

    Once you’ve confirmed the availability of your business name and secured it, you have the option to apply for a trademark. Though it can be relatively costly (around $225 to $400 plus attorney fees), obtaining a trademark provides nationwide protection under federal law. 

    This protection ensures that if others attempt to use a similar name, you’ll have legal precedence in your favor. For most small businesses operating locally, pursuing a trademark might not be necessary unless they plan to expand nationally.

    >> File a Trademark with IncFile >>

    How to File a Rhode Island Fictitious Name – DBA?

    To file a Rhode Island Fictitious Name (DBA), follow these simple steps:

    1. Choose a Name: Select a unique and available name for your business that doesn’t conflict with existing trademarks or registered business names
    1. Check Name Availability: Conduct a search to ensure the chosen name isn’t already in use by another business in Rhode Island
    1. File the Application: Complete the “Business Name Registration” form with the Rhode Island Secretary of State. You can file online or submit the form by mail
    1. Pay the Fee: Include the required filing fee, which may vary along with your application
    1. Wait for Approval: After submission, wait for the state to review your application. Once approved, your business will be legally allowed to operate under the chosen fictitious name
    1. Renew as Required: Fictitious name registrations may need to be renewed periodically, so be sure to stay compliant with any renewal requirements

    By following these steps, you can successfully file a Rhode Island Fictitious Name (DBA) for your business.

    How to Change the Name of a Rhode Island Business?

    Changing your business name in Rhode Island can be achieved through two methods: filing for a fictitious name (also known as a DBA name) or submitting an amendment to the legal name of your existing business.

    The simpler approach is to use a fictitious name (DBA name), which allows you to operate your business under a different name without altering its legal name. This method is particularly useful for sole proprietorships, general partnerships, as well as LLCs, and corporations looking to avoid the complexities of changing their legal name. Using a DBA name allows them to operate with brand names that do not necessarily include the required “LLC” or “Inc.” suffix.

    However, if you intend to change the legal name of your LLC or corporation officially, the best option is to file an amendment to the legal name of your business. You can find the necessary forms for both options, along with a $50 filing fee, which must be submitted by mail.

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    Business Name Registration Laws in Rhode Island

    Here are some key points related to business name registration laws in Rhode Island:

    • Choosing a Unique Name: Your business name must be unique and not already registered or reserved by another business entity in Rhode Island. Before registering, it’s advisable to conduct a name search to check for availability.
    • Online Registration: The registration process can be completed online through the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s website. The online filing system allows you to search for available business names, reserve a name, and complete the registration process.
    • Trade Name (DBA): If you’re conducting business under a name different from your legal business name (Doing Business As or DBA name), you may need to register the trade name as well.
    • Legal Entity Name: The business name should comply with the rules for naming conventions according to the type of legal entity you’re forming (e.g., LLC, corporation, partnership).
    • Registration Fees: There are fees associated with business name registration in Rhode Island. The fees may vary depending on the type of registration and the legal structure of your business.
    • Business Entity Search: After registration, your business name will be searchable in the Rhode Island business entity database, which is accessible to the public.

    Since laws and regulations can change over time, it’s essential to check with the Rhode Island Department of State or consult with a legal professional to ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding business name registration in Rhode Island.

    Bottom Line on How to Register a Business Name in Rhode Island

    In conclusion, registering a business name in Rhode Island marks the beginning of a promising entrepreneurial odyssey in the Ocean State. Adhering to the state’s registration guidelines, selecting a distinctive business name, and contemplating trademark safeguards or a Doing Business As (DBA) designation, you lay a solid foundation for success. 

    Relying on services such as ZenBusiness can provide valuable assistance throughout the registration process, streamlining your path to triumph in Rhode Island. With unwavering passion and dedication, your registered business name will flourish in Rhode Island’s vibrant business community.

    >> Use ZenBusiness To Register a Business Name in Rhode Island >>

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