The first step in forming a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation in North Dakota is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions must use a unique name. See our step-by-step guide to learn how to quickly search available names by using the state’s Business Entity Database.
How to do a North Dakota Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Step 2: Search for a Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Legendary Landscaping” and click “Search.” It is recommended to search by “with all the words,” “with at least one of the words.” “entity name starts with,” “partial match with at least one of the words” in the drop-down menu to search your name thoroughly.
Step 3: Review the Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Legendary Landscaping.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in North Dakota, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name, you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.
To find more information about any of the registered business names, click on the link in the “Type – Status” column to see a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “Legendary Landscaping L.L.C..”
While the name “Legendary Landscaping” by itself may not be available for an LLC, other variants are such as “Legendary Landscaping of North Dakota” or “of Legendary Landscaping of Fargo,” are. Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “No Entities were found matching your selection criteria.” While final approval is still with the Department of Financial Institutions, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in North Dakota. Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Department of Financial Institutions will make a final determination at the time of filing to ensure the name you picked isn’t too similar to other registered names.
Something to also keep in mind is that even though each Corporation and LLC name must be unique, it may not stop someone else from using that name since business names for a sole proprietorship or partnership are not registered by the Secretary of State and are not required to be unique. To protect your business name, consider getting a trademark.
Related: Should I trademark my business name?
What information can be looked up in the database?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Status – Active & Good Standing means all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “Dissolved,” “Not Good Standing,” and “Expired,” among others. The names of these results may be available to register.
- Original File Date is when the Articles of Organization were filed with the Department of Financial Institutions. The Effective Date can be up to 90 days after the filing date.
- Nature of the Business – Brief description of what the business does.
- Principal Office – This could be the business’s physical address, or it could be an address where business records are stored.
- Registered Agent’s information – A Registered Agent in North Dakota is the singular point of contact for the entity should a legal or tax notice need to be sent to the business. This is often one of the owners, and if their home address is used, that address becomes public information. Many people find this concerning and use a Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent, so their home address isn’t publically listed.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in North Dakota?
In addition to the name being unique, the name of the LLC must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, LLC, L.L.C., etc., in addition to not using restricted words such as bank or insurance, unless the entity is licensed to operate as such.
Can an LLC name be reserved?
If there is a name you want to use but aren’t ready to form the LLC, the Name Reservation Application can be filed to hold the name for up to 1 year. The state filing fee for a name reservation is $10, paid to the Secretary of State.
How do I form an LLC?
Before starting your business and forming an LLC, be sure to do the business entity search first to make sure the name is available to use. Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form a North Dakota LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.
While not required in North Dakota, an Operating Agreement, which contains the rules for how the LLC operates, is a document worth considering, especially for multi-member LLCs.
After forming a Limited Liability Company, be sure to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is a “social security number” for the business. There is no cost to get one through the IRS.
Also, be sure to check for North Dakota business licenses and permits to ensure the business is legal to operate.