How to Get a Small Business License in North Dakota

Learn the steps required to obtain a business license in North Dakota.



Looking to start a small business in North Dakota? You may need to obtain one or more state licenses or permits, or complete one or more kinds of state registration, as part of the start-up process. Here’s a quick look at some of the main informational resources available and a few of the steps you may need to take.

North Dakota Small Business Information

The official website for North Dakota, nd.gov, has a section on How to Build a Business. There are links to information on business planning, access to capital, protecting an idea, and sources of assistance. By using the links, you can find more detailed information from several government and public agencies. Among other options, these include:

Get One or More Business Licenses

Not every North Dakota business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more licenses. Different types of licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies. You can find more information by going to the Licensing Information section of the nd.gov website. You’ll find that some of the agencies that issue business-related licenses and permits are:

The nd.gov website has an Alphabetical List of Business Licenses that can provide you with more information. In addition, NDSU provides an extensive list of business licenses required by the state. The list includes which agency or commission provides the license, fees, and other information. Check the appropriate section of the NDSU website.

In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. For example, the City of Fargo requires certain businesses to have licenses. You can find more details by checking the website for the city where you’ll operate your business. (Some businesses may be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.)

File Records for Your Form of Business

Beyond obtaining required licenses or permits, some legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), are required to file records with the state. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of business must file organizational documents with the SOS. Check the Business Servicessection of the SOS website for more details.

Obtain Professional Licensing

If you’re a member of any one of many professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of North Dakota. The NDSU website has a webpage that provides a list of many of the professions and occupations that require state licensing. The list, which contains dozens of items, runs from Abstractor to Water Conditioning Installer, and includes professions such as accountants, attorneys, dentists, engineers, nurses, physicians, and veterinarians. For each profession, the list provides the state regulatory board or agency, application and renewal fees, contact names, and other information.

Example: Monique wants to work as a licensed speech and language pathologist. She’ll need to apply for a license through the North Dakota State Board of Examiners on Audiology & Speech-Language.

Register an Assumed or Fictitious Business Name (Trade Name)

Many small businesses don’t simply operate under the names of their owners. Instead, they operate under a business name. In addition, some businesses, such as corporations and LLCs, may originally register with the state under one name (sometimes called the registered name, actual name, or true name), but later choose to operate under another name. Depending on where you’re doing business and how your business is structured, this alternative business name technically may be known as an assumed name, a fictitious name, a trade name, or a DBA (for “doing business as”). In North Dakota, corporations and LLCs must file a form with the SOS if they intend to operate under a trade name. Similarly, partnerships not operating under the names of the partners must file a fictitious name certificate with the SOS.

Example: Melanie originally organized her car repair business as a North Dakota corporation with the name Mel’s Superb Garage, Inc. She now wants to operate the business under the name Great North Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Melanie must file a Form SFN 13401, TRADE NAME REGISTRATION OR FRANCHISE NAME DISCLOSURE, including the filing fee, with the SOS.

Register a Trademark or Service Mark

There are separate legal definitions for trademarks, service marks, and trade names. However, speaking very generally, trademarks, service marks, and trade names are used to uniquely identify goods (products), services, or a business. This includes distinguishing a product, service, or business from potential competitors. Trademarks and service marks can be registered with the state. (This is distinct from federal registration.) You can find more information, including forms, in the Trademark / Service Mark section of the SOS website.

Example: Charles wants to sell his coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Charlie’s Deep Chocolate Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—he files a Form SFN 13400, TRADEMARK / SERVICE MARK REGISTRATION, including the filing fee, with the SOS.

Additional Information

This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in North Dakota. You can find much more information in the many other articles in the Small Business section here on Nolo.com. Many of those articles are part of 50-state series—so you can get plenty of information that’s specific to the State of North Dakota. You can also find expanded information in many Nolo books, such as Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold, and The Small Business Start-Up Kit, by Peri Pakroo.

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