Attorney and author Kathy Biehl practiced law privately in Houston, Texas for 18½ years before relocating to New York City in 1998. She has taught legal research and writing at the University of Houston Law Center and business law at Rice University. A member of the State Bar of Texas, she earned a B.A. with highest honors from Southern Methodist University and a J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, where she was a member of Texas Law Review and Order of the Coif. She is co-author of The Lawyer’s Guide to Internet Research (Scarecrow Press, Nov. 2000), with Tara Calishain.
Each edition of Research Roundup will pull together related, practical online services that take outstanding advantage of the convenience and efficiency of the Internet.
Portions of this column are excerpted from the Lawyer’s Guide to Internet Research (Tara Calishain, co-author), to be published this fall by Scarecrow Press.
Business Filings Databases
More than three-fourths of the states make some level of Corporate and Business filings available online. In a few instances only limited information (such as name availability) is retrievable. The majority of the states, however, use their Web presence to disseminate a range of public business records — and most of them offer access at no charge.
Unless otherwise stated, each database listed below is free. If a state is not on the list, it has not posted corporate records online.
Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Nebraska / Nevada / New Jersey/ New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / Ohio / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming
Alabama: The Secretary of State allows online searching of its corporations, elections, notary public, and UCC records. The corporate database includes non-profits, limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships, and registered limited liability partnerships.
Alaska : The Division of Banking, Securities and Corporations (part of the Department of Community and Economic Development) gives online access to its searchable database of domestic and foreign corporate records, trademarks, and reserved or registered business names. Business search results include the entity’s status (such as bankrupt, cancelled, merged out of existence, or voluntarily withdrawn).
Arizona : The Secretary of State’s Corporation Commission’s Corporations Division has transformed the State of Arizona Public Access System (STARPAS) database of corporations, LLCs, limited partnerships, trademarks, and trade names from a subscription to a free service. The office also maintains searchable databases of UCC filings, lobbyists, notaries, and registered telephone solicitors.
Arkansas : The Secretary of State maintains searchable databases of corporations, as well as banks and insurance companies, home builders, incorporations, trademarks, co-operatives, home inspectors, and notaries. The Secretary of State accepts online incorporation filings from account holders with the Information Network of Arkansas.
California : The Secretary of State’s Business Programs Division offers online searchable databases of corporate, general partnership, limited partnership, LLC, unincorporated nonprofit association, and trademark records and claim filings by successors-in-interest to deceased celebrities.
Florida : To search records for corporations, general and limited liability partnerships, trademarks, UCC filings, federal liens, and fictitious names, use the Secretary of State’s Sunbiz utility, which provides digital images of the actual documents on file. Sunbiz also accepts corporate, general and limited partnership, LLC, and UCC filings online; this aspect of the service requires applying for an account and making a deposit of at least $300.
Georgia : The Corporations Division of the Secretary of State retrieves business entity information by name, agent, or officer. It accepts online requests for name reservations, registration renewals, and status certificates. The page also has a searchable trademark database.
Indiana : The Secretary of State’s Business Services Online feature permits searching for business entities by name, checking name availability, and obtaining Certificates of Existence or Authorization (which you may print straight from the site). Each service entails a nominal fee, which is lower for subscribers to the premium services of Access Indiana Information Network.
Iowa : The Secretary of State makes its entire filings database available online, including corporate names, officers, stock, agents, addresses and trademarks. Notary and UCC records are on the office’s home page.
Kentucky : The Secretary of State’s site permits visitors to check business entity name availability or search its records for corporate status, registered agent and address, officers, assumed names, or LLC members or managers. A searchable database of UCC filings is also available.
Maryland : The Department of Assessments and Taxation provides the name, principal address, agent, and business personal property information for corporations, LLCs, limited liability partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability limited partnerships, and trade names. The Secretary of State maintains databases of registered trademarks and charitable organizations.
Massachusetts : Direct Access, a subscription service of the Corporations Division provides public information about corporations, limited partnerships, LLCs, and limited liability partnerships, as well as tax and child support liens and Uniform Commercial Code filings.
Michigan : The Corporation Divisionof the Corporations, Securities and Land Development Bureau has put its corporations, limited partnership, and LLC database online, but access is availably only through fee-based services such as LEXIS-NEXIS, CDB Infotek, or Information America.
Nebraska : The Secretary of State offers a subscription service, Nebrask@ Online, for access to online databases of public filings—business entity, UCC, drivers license, sales and use tax, and vehicle title, lien and registration records. A subscription includes the right to make certain filings (such as UCC) online. Subscription information packets are available on e-mail request.
Nevada : The Secretary of State Commercial Recordings Division’s corporations database is searchable by name, registered agent, officer, or file number.
New Jersey : The Division of Revenue’s Business Gateway Services has two search engines: one for the registered business entity database, which discloses status and business addresses for registered business entities, and one for name availability. The service requires registration and imposes a fee for status reports or registering a name, but does permit browsing at no charge.
New Mexico : To search the state’s corporate records by entity or director name, use the inquiry form at the Public Regulation Commission page. The Secretary of State’s site permits online searches of its UCC filings database.
New York : The Secretary of State’s corporation and business entity database contains information about corporations, nonprofits, limited partnerships, LLCs, limited limited partnerships, and undefined “miscellaneous” entities.
North Carolina : The Secretary of State’s Corporations Division covers corporations and limited partnerships in its searchable databases. It’s possible to search for name availability, name reservations, and the latest incorporations (by county). The UCC database is here.
Ohio : The Secretary of State’s registered business database is searchable by name, registration number, agent or contact name, prior business name, document number, or church name. UCC and campaign finance databases are also available. The databases consists of images of the documents on file, which are viewable online between 8 AM to 11 PM Central time.
Oregon : The Secretary of State Corporation Division plans to put its Business Registry database (to reach an index of services and databases) online by late 2000 at the earliest. At the moment, only Uniform Commercial Code filings are online; they’re searchable by lien number or debtor name.
Pennsylvania : The Department of State offers only a searchable database of registered charitable organizations. Business name availability requests are accepted by e-mail through the Pennsylvania Open For Business site.
South Carolina : The Secretary of State makes all of its corporate, UCC, and notary filings available through a system called Direct Access. The page has step-by-step instructions for dialing into the system and retrieving information.
Texas : The Secretary of State has set up a fee-based Direct Access program for its database of corporate, limited partnership, LLC, assumed name, trademark and UCC filings. Instead of a subscription, the program requires a deposit, from which per-search charges are deducted.
Utah : Run business entity, name availability, registered principal and UCC filing searches at the Commerce Department’s Division of Corporations and Commercial Code.
Vermont : From the Secretary of State’s page you can search business name reservations and foreign corporation registrations; obtain the officers, registered agents, and addresses of registered corporations; determine the owner of a registered trademark or trade name; retrieve UCC filings by debtor or keyword; and search databases of notaries, election results, lobbyists, and professional licenses.
Virginia : The Corporation Commission has a subscription system called Direct Access, through which subscribers may obtain information from the corporate, limited partnership, LLC, and UCC filings database.
Washington : The Secretary of State’s Corporations Division posts searchable registration information for corporations, limited partnerships, LLCs, and LLPs. The Secretary of State also maintains a searchable database of registered charitable organizations.
West Virginia : The Secretary of State Corporations Division’s Business Organizations Data System covers active and terminated corporations, LLCs, limited partnerships, and other registered entities; trade names; and name reservations and registrations. The Corporations Division accepts e-mail orders for copies, good standing certificates, certificates of existence, and officer searches.
©Kathy Biehl 2000. All Rights Reserved.