Choosing a Business Name in North Dakota

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Selecting a name for your business is an important part of business formation.  There are some rules about naming your business in North Dakota, depending on the type of business structure you are planning.  Generally, a business name cannot include any words that indicate it is involved in anything other than a lawful business purpose or use words that indicate different a business structure.  Business names also cannot be the same as or deceptively similar to the name of another business.

Sole Proprietorship

If your business is a sole proprietorship and you use a business name that does not include the name of the individual owner, you must register your trade name with the North Dakota Secretary of State.  The registration of a trade name with the Secretary of State affords the holder of the trade name the exclusive right to use that name and establishes a public record for identification of the business owner.

General Partnership

A general partnership does not require any formal documents filed with the state to be created.  However, a general partnership must file a partnership fictitious name certificate with the Secretary of State if it uses a name other than the name of each partner.  For example, if the partners names are Bob Johnson and John Bobson, the partnership would need to file a fictitious name certificate with the Secretary of State if the partners chose to use a name for their business other than something like “B. Johnson & J. Bobson.”  Like a trade name, registering a fictitious name with the state provides rights of exclusive use and creation of a public record of the partners.


A corporation’s name has more stringent requirements than those for a partnership or sole proprietorship.  The corporate name itself provides notice to the public of the business structure.  Corporation names must contain the word company, corporation, incorporated, limited, or an abbreviation like inc. or co.  A corporate name may also not be deceptively similar or the same as the name of another corporation or other business authorized to do business in North Dakota.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC also has a few more rules relating to its name than some other business structures.  An LLC’s name must contain the words “limited liability company” or the abbreviation “LLC” or “L.L.C.”  The name of an LLC cannot contain the words limited or company, without using the entire phrase of “limited liability company.”

In terms of other non-legal considerations, a business name should be unique, easy to remember, and relevant to your business.  If you need advice on starting your business and choosing a name or business structure, contact business attorney Steve Welle at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys in Fargo, North Dakota or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.