How to Register a DBA in North Dakota (Step-by-Step Guide)

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by Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
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Starting a new business can be a stressful experience. There are many legal terms to understand and decisions to make that may well dictate the direction of your business. One of these decisions is naming your business. A catchy name can attract customers and work as an early marketing tool. This article will look at a DBA. We will unpack what a DBA means, when and if you may need one, and finally, a step-by-step process of applying for a DBA in North Dakota.

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What is a DBA?

DBA is an acronym for “doing business as,” which describes companies or individuals who operate under a name different from their legal name. A DBA name is often called an assumed name, fictitious business name, or trade name.

For example, if Susan Lee owns a sole proprietorship that provides pet grooming services, she can register a new name, such as “Paws and Claws Pet Grooming,” to market her products and services instead of using her own name.

Sole proprietors, general partnerships, and corporations often register if they want to use a fictitious name that better describes their services or products or if they simply want to use a different name. 

The process of registering varies from state to state. Usually, it involves:

  1. Choosing a unique name
  2. Confirming its availability
  3. Filing the proper forms with the relevant government agency
  4. Paying the DBA filing fees incurred

North Dakota DBA name registration

In North Dakota, DBA names are often referred to as trade or fictitious names.

Choose your name

The first step is to decide upon a name. Your name must adhere to the North Dakota naming regulations.

The rules dictate:

  • Names must be unique.
  • Names of individuals and entities cannot be misleading or confusing.
  • Names cannot suggest that the person or entity is a government agency or affiliated with a government agency.
  • For corporations and limited liability companies, the name must include certain designations such as “corporation,” “incorporated,” “company,” or “limited liability company.”
  • The name cannot include certain words that suggest the entity is engaged in activities outside its intended purpose.

Check name availability

Once you have decided on your unique name, the next step is to check to see if it is already in use in North Dakota. Go to the North Dakota business search website and search by business name.

Once you have confirmed your name is unique, we recommend buying the web domain for your new name. Even if you are not ready to launch a business website, buying the domain prevents others from doing so. A business website is an incredibly useful marketing tool and a must for any small business.

Register your name

In North Dakota, you have to either file a trade name or a fictitious name.

Fictitious names are for partnerships, whereas trade names are for all other types of business.

You can either file online or by using this form. 

If you are filing online, you must register for FirstStop and create an account and password.

To register a trade name, the Trade Name Registration form needs the following details:

  • The specific trade name being registered
  • The business entity that is registering the trade name
  • Indication of whether a franchise will use the trade name
  • A brief description of the nature of the business

To register a fictitious name, the form needs the following details:

  • The new fictitious name being registered
  • Type of partnership
  • A brief description of the nature of the business
  • Names of partners

If you are mailing in your forms, mail them to:

Secretary of State
State of North Dakota
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 108
Bismarck ND 58505-0500

Pay your filing fees

The filing fees are $25.

You can either pay by cash, check, or credit card.

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

  • Your trade name is valid for five years from the date of registration. You will be mailed renewal forms at least three months before expiration.
  • If you want to amend your business name, you must first cancel your old name and file a new form.
  • If you want to withdraw your DBA, you must first draft a request to cancel the trade name and submit it with a $10 fee to the Secretary of State. There are no formal forms to cancel your trade name.

Obtain an EIN

An EIN (Employer Identification Number) is a unique number the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assigns to identify business entities for tax purposes.

If you are a sole proprietor and don’t have employees, you can use your Social Security Number as your tax ID instead of obtaining an EIN.

If the DBA business hires employees or wants to establish a separate business bank account, they must obtain an EIN.

An EIN is easily obtained online.

Open a business bank account

Once you have received your EIN, you can open a business bank account.

There are many benefits to a company bank account. It allows you to accept check and credit card payments with more ease and also allows you to segregate your personal assets and business expenses.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

There are many advantages to registering a DBA: 

  • Customizable name: A DBA can be altered more quickly than a legal business name, allowing business owners to change their name according to their evolving products and services or market conditions. It also allows multiple names to target different products and markets, increasing the scope and customer base.
  • Clear financial separation: Filing for a DBA allows business owners to establish a business bank account under the company name instead of a personal account. This separation allows for more transparent financial records, prevents confusion, and protects personal assets. It also makes it easier to receive cheques and card payments.
  • Brand recognition: A well-crafted DBA name is often more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. It helps in brand recognition, business promotion, and marketing and advertising the products or services easier.
  • Cost-effective: DBA registration is usually less expensive than other business structures, such as limited liability companies (LLCs). It is a more affordable option for small business owners and entrepreneurs that want to create a unique identity without spending too much money.

However, there are a few downsides to registering a DBA:

  • Personal liability: DBAs do not provide legal protection or personal liability protection, meaning that the business owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business. It exposes the owner to the risk of personal bankruptcy, as the owner is solely responsible.
  • Legal and administrative burden: Using a DBA name requires registering the name with the relevant government agency, which can be time-consuming. The legal and administrative burden increases with multiple DBAs, requiring the owner to maintain and update legal documents periodically.

Who needs a DBA?

  • Sole proprietors: Individuals who run a business independently without creating a separate legal entity can benefit from a DBA. It allows them to use a different name for marketing their products or services and adapt to market changes more easily.
  • Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names can use a DBA to represent their partnership and increase brand recognition.
  • Corporations: A business specializing in web design and development may file a DBA such as “Web Design Solutions” to differentiate its services from other web design businesses. Additionally, if a company has a subsidiary that offers recruitment services under the name “Casting Solutions LLC” but they also want to provide printing services, it can form a DBA named “Printing Services” to distinguish the two activities.
  • Limited liability companies (LLCs): LLCs can file a DBA to conduct business under a different name or brand while enjoying the benefits of a flexible business structure that limits personal liability and protects assets.

Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?

You would need a DBA if:

  • Operating under a different name: If you plan to use a name that differs from your legal or company name, then a DBA may be necessary.
  • Multiple business names: Corporations, LLCs, sole proprietorships, and partnerships that operate under numerous business names may need a DBA to keep their branding and legal structures distinct.
  • Test new products or markets: A DBA can be useful for testing or entering new markets without changing your legal name.

A DBA may not be necessary if:

  • Operating under the legal or personal name: A DBA may not be necessary if you operate under your or your company’s legal name.


What is a trade name, and how is it different from a trademark or a service mark?

A trade name is a name under which a person or entity conducts business. It differs from a trademark or service mark, a symbol, design, or phrase used to identify and distinguish goods or services in the marketplace.

Why should I register a trade name?

Registering a trade name protects against others using the same name and allows you to enforce your rights to the name in court.

How long does a trade name registration last?

A trade name registration is valid for five years and can be renewed for additional five-year periods.

Can I use my trade name in other states?

Registering a name in North Dakota only protects in North Dakota. If you want to use your trade name in other states, you may need to register it separately in those states.

Can I change my trade name after registering it?

You can change your name by filing a Trade Name Amendment with the Secretary of State’s office.

Can I transfer my trade name to someone else?

You can transfer your name by filing a Trade Name Assignment with the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office.

What are the consequences of not registering a trade name?

Failure to register a name can result in legal action and monetary damages if another party uses a similar name in the same geographic area.

Some states ask me to publish my new DBA name in a local newspaper. Do I have to do this?

North Dakota does not require the publication of any new names in local newspapers, but there are many benefits to advertising your new name in the local community.

Do I need to file with my county as well?

No, filing is completed at the state level. There is no need to file with your county.

Does my DBA give me a business license? 

No, depending on your business type, you may need to apply for additional licenses. 

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

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