A corporation files articles of incorporation with a state business registrar to set up the company and obtain permission to conduct business in the state. The articles contain basic information, including the corporation's legal name and the contact information for an agent located in the state who can accept official mail and court summonses on behalf of the corporation. The articles of incorporation are maintained as public documents so anyone can find out who is responsible for corporate business activity. Every state makes the articles for all state-registered corporations available to the public upon request.
Identify a state where the corporation that you are researching transacts business. You can use the corporation's website or letterhead to identify the principal state where the corporation is headquartered, or you can pick any address associated with the business or its products. A corporation must maintain its home registration in the state where it originally filed its articles of incorporation and a registration in each state where it transacts a significant amount of business.
Read More: What Document Is Necessary to Form a Corporation?
Go to the website of the corporation registrar for the state you have identified. In most states, corporate registrations are handled by the secretary of state's office. Follow the links to the business section of the website. This section will typically provide information on how to start a corporation.
Locate the business entity database. All states maintain a searchable database that is accessible from the website and contains information on all businesses registered in the state. Search the database by business name to locate the registration information for the corporation. If you have identified the corporation's home state, the record will indicate the date the company incorporated in the state. If you have identified a state where the corporation is simply authorized to do business, the record will indicate which state incorporated the company. Go to the website of the state of incorporation to continue your search.
Download a copy of the corporation's articles of incorporation from the business entity database of the state of incorporation. Most states allow you to download a corporation's articles from the database for free. Some states will charge a fee to download the document. A small number of states have not scanned documents into their database. If the document is not available for download, you can always call the corporations division of the secretary of state's office and request a copy of a corporation's articles.
There are a number of other ways to obtain a copy of a corporation's articles of incorporation. Certain research companies, such as Lexis Nexis and Dun and Bradstreet, maintain a proprietary database of public documents from all states that makes it easier to find specific documents with one search. These private databases often charge a fee for use.
Terry Masters has been writing for law firms, corporations and nonprofit organizations since 1995, specializing in business topics, personal finance, taxation, nonprofit issues, and general legal and marketing content creation for the Internet. Terry holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a minor in finance.