Name Availability and Disclaimer
This business record search allows a person to review all business names registered with the Secretary of State. It can also be used to check the availability of a business name.
According to North Dakota law, the Secretary of State is only allowed to file a business name that is not the same as, or deceptively similar to any business name that is already registered with the office.
Although a person doing a records search may not find an exact duplicate of a specific chosen business name, it still could be a deceptively similar name. Therefore, it is very important that documents are first filed with the Secretary of State’s office to make sure that the name is available.
The documents should be filed and the registration of the name completed before it is used to make an investment, enter into a contract, record deeds to property, expend money on signs, stationery, etc., or to make use of it in any manner. If this first step is not taken, it could become expensive and result in unforeseen legal challenges for the filer.
Depending on the specific business structure, there are several ways to register a business name. As they may apply, they include: filing a trade name registration form; filing a partnership fictitious name certificate; filing articles of incorporation; filing documents for a limited partnership, limited liability partnership, limited liability limited partnership, limited liability company, etc.
If a decision hasn’t yet been made about a specific business structure under which to register the name, a person also has the option of filing a Reserve Name Application form. This filing will reserve the chosen name for one year. However, it only reserves the name and does not grant authority for the use of the name until the documents applicable to the business structure are filed.
The Secretary of State’s office wants your business venture to have a successful beginning and is ready to help in any way it can. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Business Division.
Disclaimer - Business Names and Trademarks
Registration with the Secretary of State of a business name, which may be the true name of the business, a trade name, or a fictitious partnership name does not establish trademark rights. Registering the business name, while required in order to do business in North Dakota, does not in itself mean that the same name is available as a trademark or that it does not infringe another’s trademark rights.
To distinguish between a business name and a trademark, see the following definitions:
- A business name is the name under which a company does business. A business name identifies and distinguishes an entity from other entities.
- A trademark (or service mark) is any word, phrase, symbol, or device, or combination thereof, that identifies and distinguishes the services or goods of one party from those of others, and to indicate the source of the services or goods.
Registration of a business name with the Secretary of State’s office does not eliminate the risk of an objection by another party. The best way to decrease the risk is to conduct a “clearance search” before starting to use a business name. These searches are used to verify whether there are any potentially similar or conflicting prior rights in the marketplace. Consider discussing this, and other related matters, with a business or trademark attorney.
Trademarks may be established and protected by use at the state and federal levels. Information about federal trademarks is available from the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Information about state trademarks is typically available through the websites of the applicable Secretary of State offices, including North Dakota’s.
For more information, see Business Names and Trademarks FAQs.