You're required to file a trade name in Iowa when you're operating as a sole proprietor and using a name other than your official name. For example, say your name is Joseph Martin and you have your own freelance writing business that you operate as a sole proprietor. If you want to run the business as "Fantastic Freelancing," you need to register because "Fantastic Freelancing" is a fictitious name. Alternatively, if your business is already registered in Iowa, for example as an LLC or corporation, but you want to use a different name than its official name, you need to register a fictitious name.
Fictitious Name Forms
Iowa requires that you complete a form called a "Fictitious Name Resolution" before you start using the name. The form requires that you identify your connection with the business, and the name that your business intends to adopt. After you sign and date the form, you submit it, along with the filing fee, to the secretary of state. After you've submitted it, it becomes a public record that is open to public inspection.
Trade Name Registration
Unlike fictitious names, Iowa trade names are filed with the county in which you do business. For example, if your sole proprietorship or partnership does business in Polk County, you must register your trade name with the Polk County Recorder's Office. The registration form requires the name and signature of every person who has an ownership in the business and the trade name. In addition, it must be notarized and must be accompanied with the appropriate filing fee.
Registering your trade name or fictitious name doesn't actually give you any legal protection for your name. Instead, it merely gives the public notice of who actually owns the company. In addition, your trade name or fictitious name can't make false claims or suggest an illegal business. For example, you couldn't do business as "Mark's Legal Cuban Imports."