North Dakota Business Name Search
Even with the help of business services through the Secretary of State (SoS), registering a business has financial consequences. Always discuss business setup with a business attorney.
How to search North Dakota business names
When starting a new business in North Dakota, the business owner must research the chosen business entity name to ensure that it is available. Name availability is not only done at the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office, but that is the first step. If the system finds an exact match or a name that is too similar in the business name search, the business owner must choose another name. To lookup a business name at the North Dakota Secretary of State:
Step 1: Navigate to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office search tool to start entering search criteria.
Step 2: Click the ‘Advanced’ tab attached to the bottom of the search tool.
Step 3: Enter the business name in the search box.
Step 4: Ensure that the radio button for ‘Contains” is selected.
Step 5: Leave the ‘Active entities only’ checkbox unchecked.
Step 6: Click the ‘Search’ button.
Compare the system output to locate an exact name or similar name. If none exist, the business owner can continue the process of researching the name. If an exact match or similar name exists, the business owner must choose a different name.
Some business owners prefer to register a logo, trade name, or other intellectual property. Before the business owner can register intellectual property, she must determine whether the intellectual property exists.
Intellectual property registered in North Dakota is only protected from use by another in North Dakota. If a business owner wishes to protect his intellectual property from the rest of the states, she must register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
To search North Dakota’s trademark database:
- Step 1: Navigate to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office trademark search tool.
- Step 2: Click the ‘Advanced tab at the bottom right of the search box.
- Step 3: Enter the trademark name in the search box.
- Step 4: Ensure the ‘Contains’ radio button is selected for the search type.
- Step 5: Click the ‘Search’ button.
- Step 6: Browse listings for the search criteria to determine whether the intellectual property is available.
If a business owner wishes to determine whether a business name or logo has been trademarked at the federal level, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Before a business registers its name, the business owner should take additional steps to ensure that the name is available for domain and social media use. While the domain name and social media accounts or pages do not have to have the same name as the business, it is better for marketing purposes. If another person or entity is already using the name, a prospective business owner can choose another name to register at the state level or use a different name that describes the business for the domain name and social media accounts.
Check if the domain name is available
Checking for domain name availability is as easy as entering the business name in the search box of a domain registry such as GoDaddy. The system will advise as to the availability of the name. If the name is not available – and it might not be because another business in another state is using the name – the system might suggest alternate names.
If a domain name is not available
If the name is unavailable as a dot-com but is available as a dot-net, we do not recommend using the dot-net name as it will confuse customers. They will end up on a competitor’s website. Instead, choose another business name, a similar name, or a descriptive name.
If a business owner chooses a similar name, he should not choose a name that is too similar, as customers will become confused and end up on the competitor’s website.
If the dot-com name is available, we recommend registering the same name as a dot-net and dot-org so that another business or individual cannot use the same business name. A business owner could create landing pages on the other extensions.
Domain registries have many extensions available. If it is affordable, reserve all of them and create several landing pages. For example, dot-store, dot-info, dot-us, dot-online, and dot-co are common domain name extensions.
Check if the social media name is available
Creating business accounts on various social media platforms also gives the business owner an inexpensive and free way of advertising. Check for name availability by entering the business name in the search bar.
If the business name is available, no accounts will display. If the name is unavailable, a business owner has the same choices she has if the domain name is unavailable: choose a different name, create a similar name, or create a descriptive name.
How to register a North Dakota business entity
To register a business entity in North Dakota, the business owner must log on to North Dakota’s Secretary of State’s FirstStop app. Once logged in, the business owner can register the business name.
Before starting the registration process, the business owner should know which entity he wants to register as, whether a sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, limited liability company, a nonprofit, or limited partnership.
If a business owner is unsure as to which entity is best for her business, she should consult with a business law attorney. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has different methods of taxing various entities.
Additionally, some entities offer protection of personal assets from business creditors and lawsuits, and others do not.
Naming considerations for North Dakota business entities
The different types of entities have different naming conventions, including certain phrases, words or abbreviations the business owner must append to the end of the business name.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
If a business owner chooses a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, he does not have to register the business with the North Dakota Secretary of State. The business owner does not need to append an entity type to the name but must use the surname of the owner or partners. Additionally, these entities do not provide personal asset protection from business creditors. If a business owner wants to protect her personal assets, she should choose a different entity, such as a limited liability company.
If a sole proprietorship or general partnership wishes to use a trade name, it must register the trade name with the North Dakota Secretary of State.
Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a limited liability company must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Limited liability company.
A business owner who chooses to incorporate as a corporation must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
A business owner who decides to incorporate as a limited partnership must append one of the following to the end of the business name:
- Limited partnership.
A nonprofit corporation does not need to append an entity designator at the end of its name. However, it can append one of the following if desired:
How are business licenses obtained in North Dakota?
North Dakota does not have a general statewide license for all businesses. Instead, businesses in certain industries must obtain a license. Additionally, local governments might require businesses to obtain a license for the county or city. Check with your county and city for business license information.
Does my North Dakota business need a registered agent?
Yes, if the business is registered with the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office, it needs a registered agent. The registered agent ensures the business remains in compliance with state laws and regulations. It also accepts service of process and other legal documents, including those from the Secretary of State’s office.
Does my business need a Federal Employer Identification Number?
Yes, if the business has employees, it must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). A business can apply for the FEIN itself, or we can obtain the FEIN for the business.
How do I find out if my business has a lien against it or business property?
Business owners can search the UCC database to determine if a creditor placed a lien against business property or the business itself. The business owner can log in or do a public search.
How does my business obtain a certificate of good standing?
The North Dakota Secretary of State issues certificates of good standing for businesses that are in compliance. A business owner can request a certificate of good standing by calling (701)328-4284, faxing a request to (701) 328-2992, emailing [email protected], or mailing the request to the Secretary of State, Business Division, 600 E. Boulevard Ave. Dept. 108, Bismarck, ND 58505-0500.
Does North Dakota have additional business entity structures?
Yes. North Dakota has several business entity structures, though they are not as common as corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, general partnerships, and sole proprietorships.