Step 1: Choose a Business Structure
The type of business structure you choose to form will determine how you register the business with the state. Use our how to choose a business structure guide to help choose which business structure is best for you, whether it’s sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.
The factors you should consider when choosing a business structure will depend on your needs and wants for personal liability protection, tax liabilities, and paperwork to keep the company in compliance.
Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships
By default, sole proprietorships operate as the same name as the owner while general partnerships must include the surnames of all the partners.
LLCs and Corporations
Both LLCs and corporations require unique names in Rhode Island that must follow certain naming requirements:
Step 2: Check Name Availability
When registering a business name, it's important to make sure it's unique and no one else in your state formed a company with it or has control of it online as a domain name.
Domain Name Search
We strongly recommend that you also check to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the web address to prevent others from acquiring that domain name. If the web domain is available then it’s likely the name will also be available in a business search.
Rhode Island Business Name Search
Next, search the Rhode Island corporate database tool. This is an important step in the process because your filing will be denied if you try to file for a name already in use.
Search requirements can vary depending on your business needs. For example, a unique and available name is required to:
- File for formal business structures like LLCs and corporations.
- File a DBA name for any business structure.
A state-level name search isn’t required for informal business structures like sole proprietorships or general partnerships in Rhode Island. But, if you decide to register a fictitious name/assumed name or DBA name, you’ll need to search the database to see if your desired name is unique and available.
Step 3: Form Your Business With the State of Rhode Island
Once you have selected your business structure and name, you will need to file your formation documents with the state, which will register your business with the State of Rhode Island.
To register your Rhode Island LLC, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization with the Rhode Island Department of State. You can apply online or by mail. Read our Form an LLC in Rhode Island guide for details.
To register your Rhode Island corporation, you’ll need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Rhode Island Division of Business Services. Read our Form a Rhode Island Corporation guide to learn more.
Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark (Optional)
Once you confirm the availability of your business name and secure it, you can choose to apply for a trademark for your business. This typically costs around $225 to $400 plus any attorney fees as well as a renewal fee every 10 years.
While this cost can be high for a start-up or fledgling business, it will give your company brand nationwide protection backed by federal law. That means if others try to do business with the same — or a similar — name as yours, you’ll have legal precedent on your side. For most small businesses, this really isn't necessary unless they are thinking of going national.
How to Change the Name of a Rhode Island Business
Changing the name of a business in Rhode Island can be done in two ways: by filing for a fictitious name/assumed name or by submitting an amendment to the legal name of an existing business.
The first method, filing for a fictitious name/assumed name (also known as a DBA name), is the easiest way to operate your business using a different name without needing to change its legal name.
A DBA name is the only way for sole proprietorships and general partnerships to have a different business name. It’s also the easiest method for LLCs and corporations to follow because it allows them to avoid filing an amendment or complicating their business operations while enabling them to operate with brand names that don’t include the necessary LLC or Inc. suffix required in a legal name.
If you want to change the legal name of your LLC or corporation, however, filing an amendment to the legal name of an existing business is your best option. Here are links to forms for both options:
Both must be mailed along with the $50 filing fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a business license required in Rhode Island?
There’s no general business license offered in Rhode Island. But, depending on the city in which you’re located and the type of business you’re operating, you may need to obtain certain licenses and/or permits.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in Rhode Island?
Forming an LLC in Rhode Island costs $150 to file your Articles of Organization with the Office of the Secretary of State.
How do I register for business taxes in Rhode Island?
Registering your business with the state’s Division of Taxation will automatically enroll your business in any applicable taxes.