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How To Run A Business Entity Search In Iowa
The state of Iowa does not allow new businesses to register under a name that an existing business already has. Every Iowa business name has to be unique in order to avoid legal entanglements such as trademark conflicts. The first step for any new business is therefore to select a unique name and run a business entity search to ensure that the business name does not already exist.
What Is A Business Entity Search?
A business entity is any registered form of business such as a sole proprietorship, limited partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation. A business entity search finds businesses according to the name or number that they have been registered under.
The Iowa Secretary of State maintains a database of all the registered business entities that exist in the state and allows online searches to be performed on their website. These searches can be run to find a business in Iowa or to check for name availability for new businesses.
What Is Considered To Be A Unique Name In The State Of Iowa?
Iowa employs the deceptively similar rule in order to ensure that every business name in the state is entirely unique. This means that a new business name cannot simply change a couple of letters or the spelling of a word to make a name different from one that is already in existence. If it sounds similar to a registered business entity name, it cannot be used.
The search eliminates all articles (a, an, the) from the beginning of the search and these cannot be used to distinguish a new business name from an existing name. Although it is a legal requirement to denote the form of business (LLC, Corporation) at the end of a business name, it is not important in an Iowa business search. Any letters at the end of the business name such corp, L.C.C, Inc., etc. will be eliminated from the search.
Punctuation (capitalization of a word) and plurals will not distinguish a new business name from an existing one. Using a number instead of the written word for a number (and vice versa) is not considered to be distinguishable. So simply capitalizing the first letter in each word or making it plural is not going to create a unique business name.
Some symbols are allowed to be used in business names in Iowa. However, when performing a business entity search, the full word for the symbol should be typed out. For example, @ should be typed as “at” or the symbol for degrees should be fully spelled out.
It is recommended to have a list of at least 5 business names that are entirely distinct from one another before starting a business entity search. As many variations of each name should be searched in order to determine whether the business name exists or not. If the business name or a close approximation of the name already exists, it cannot be used.
How To Run A Business Entity Search In Iowa
Simply visit the Iowa Secretary of State website and open the “Search Databases” tab then click on “Business Entities”. The screen will provide two search options – search by name or search by number. The search by name option should be chosen to check for name availability. Enter the full proposed name for the business and enter. A results page will be returned listing all results that contain the words entered into the search criteria.
It is then recommended to use a few different variations of the name in order to avoid it being deceptively similar. Swap two words around and the results may be different. If the name does exist in some form, move onto another name choice for the business and run another search using different variations.
Once an available name has been found, it is important to reserve it. It can take time for a business registration to be processed and approved. Reserving a name prevents other new businesses from using the name under the assumption that it is available.
It is up to the business owner or the person registering a business in Iowa to do their due diligence and ensure that the chosen business name is unique before registering the business. If the name is found to be the same as or deceptively similar to an existing registered entity, the application for registration of the business will be rejected and the entire process will need to be started from scratch.
Remember that it is not only a legal requirement to have a unique business name but this will also benefit the business in the long run. A name that is distinct and stands out from the crowd will allow the business to be distinguishable from the competition and other businesses operating in the state.
There is also the option to register the business name as a trademark. This will prevent any person from using the business name in any way without prior authorization from the business owner/s.