Note: Registering only a business name does NOT create a legal business entity (a sole proprietorship is not a legal entity) and it is NOT a business license. Business licenses are issued by local city or county clerk’s offices, not by the state. Filing only a business name does not offer protection from liability.
Business names and legal entities (LLC, corporation, etc.) are registered with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. By completing a legal entity form (Articles of Incorporation, Limited Liability Company Certificate of Organization, Partnership Agreement, etc.), both the business name AND legal structure are registered (assuming the name is available for registration in Idaho). If the business will be a sole proprietorship, only the business name is registered; no additional forms are needed. A sole proprietorship is owned by only one person.
The name and entity type should be registered before you begin conducting business. For information on choosing a legal entity type, see Legal Structure. You must be 18 or older to register a business.
Be aware that business name and entity filings are public records. Any information included on the registration form will be available to the public, including your home address if your business is home-based.
Note: Before 1998, business names were registered with county recorder’s offices. If you own or purchase a business that was originally registered with your county, be certain it has been re-registered with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.
If you change the name of your business or sell or close the business, the Secretary of State’s office should be contacted and possibly other agencies as well. For information, see Changing Registered Information.
Name Search: Before registering a business name, a search can be completed to determine whether another business operating in Idaho is currently using the same name or a similar one. Only sole proprietorships can register a name currently being used by another business. Corporations and LLCs must choose a unique name. To find businesses in other states using your desired name or a similar one, do an internet search. Though you can register the same name, your businesses may be confused, particularly if the other business is regionally or nationally known. This can be a problem if the other business falls behind in financial obligations, encounters legal problems or another issue arises. In addition to checking your proposed business name, also look for similar names spelled differently, such as “shoppe” or “centre.”