In Iowa, it is required that every LLC or corporation registered in the state has a unique business name.
If you are interested in forming an LLC or corporation in Iowa, one of the first things you should do is check if the name you want is available. The Iowa Secretary of State website has a Business Entity Search that allows you to check every registered business entity in the state to see if the business name you want is available. In addition, when you begin the process of forming an entity on Fast Track Filing, there will be a section within the application that you can use to test if your name is available.
In the chance that your proposed name is already in use by another business entity, there are several ways you can make your new name distinguishable from others (in accordance with Iowa code).
A business name is considered distinguishable if it contains one or more different letters than another entity, or if it contains a different sequence of letters or numerals.
For example, say you want to register a new Limited Liability Company with the following name:
MO MONEY LLC
You conduct a business entity search and see that the name is already registered in Iowa, but you’d still like to have some variation of that name. Below are a few variations that would be allowed, according to Iowa Code:
MOE MONEY LLC
(A name is considered distinguishable if it has one or more different letters or numerals)
OM YENOM LLC
(A name is considered distinguishable if it contains a different sequence of letters or numerals)
M O MONEY LLC
(A name is considered distinguishable if a single space is used to divide a sequence of letters)
MO MONEYS LLC
(A name is considered distinguishable if there are differences in singular or plural forms of words)
MO MONEY 1 LLC
(A name is considered distinguishable if there are differences between numerals, Roman numerals, and words representing numerals)
Some name variations, however, will not be considered distinguishable under Iowa Code. Below are a few examples of names that would NOT be allowed:
MO MONEY CO., MO MONEY CORP., MO MONEY INC., etc.
(A name is NOT considered distinguishable when it includes the following words and abbreviations, positioned as the last word in the business name: Corporation, Company, Incorporated, Limited, Corp., Co., Inc., Ltd.)
MO MONEY LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, or MO MONEY L.L.C
(A name is NOT considered distinguishable when the required “LLC” variation is phrased differently)
MO MON-EY LLC, MO MONEY! LLC, or MO=MONEY LLC
(Differences in punctuation and special characters are NOT considered in determining whether a name is distinguishable)
Punctuation and special characters include, but are not limited to:
Mo Money LLC
(A name is NOT considered distinguishable if there are differences in capitalization)
Another difference that is NOT distinguishable is as follows:
- Differences between ampersand (&) and the word “and” (JOHN & CO vs. JOHN AND CO)
Lastly, when the Secretary of State’s office is determining whether your name is distinguishable, names found in the following records will not be considered:
- Fictitious names
- Assumed names of nonprofit corporations
- Names or corporations (profit or nonprofit) whose certificates of incorporation have been cancelled
- Names of corporation (profit or nonprofit) whose certificates of authority have been revoked
- Expired or terminated assumed names
- Expired name reservations
- Expired name registrations
A few other general rules apply when selecting a name for your business:
- Your name cannot include words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your business.
- If an entity has been administratively dissolved, the name of the entity will not be available for public use for five years.
To perform a Business Entity Search, visit Business Entities Search (iowa.gov).
To form an LLC or Corporation, visit https://filings.sos.iowa.gov/Account/Login