How to Find a Corporation's Public Records

By Terry Masters

Corporations are required by law to make certain information available to the public so people know whom to contact regarding business disputes. Public corporations have the further responsibility to publicly disclose management and financial information annually for the benefit of investors. Most government agencies have transitioned their corporate documents databases to provide Internet accessibility to the public, making it a straightforward matter to find most of a corporation's public records through a series of electronic searches.

Step 1

Locate any state where the corporation is doing business. A corporation registers with a home state where it organized and filed articles of incorporation and with every other state where it conducts business. Conducting business includes maintaining an office or facility within the state, operating retail outlets or hiring state residents as employees. Perhaps the easiest way is to look up the corporations main address as listed on product packaging, letterhead or a website.

Step 2

Go to the business registrar's website for the state. In most states, the business registrar is the secretary of state's office. Locate the "business entity database" or "business name search" link. All states maintain a publicly accessible business database on a state website that allows people to look up corporations with authority to operate in the state, identify an official contact person and confirm whether the corporation is in good standing. Most states' databases include images of all public filings, including the corporation's articles of incorporation and state annual reports. Most of the states that include images allow the public to download a copy for free. A handful of states charge a fee for every download. Alternatively, you can call the business registrar's office directly and obtain a copy of any public document for any corporation registered in the state.

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Step 3

Search state and federal intellectual property databases for corporate filings. A corporation's copyrights, trademarks and patents are also public information. The applications for these rights are on file with the appropriate state and federal government agencies, and these agencies make online databases available to the public. Go to the U.S. Copyright Office's website to locate corporate copyright filings. Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website to locate federal trademark and patent registrations. Go to the secretary of state's website for each state in which the corporation does business and search the trademark database for state trademark registrations.

Step 4

Go to the website for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to find the public annual financial regulatory filings for any public corporation. Access EDGAR, the SEC's document database. Copies of a company's filings are available for free to the public through this system.

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