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How to Register a Business Name in Pennsylvania

    How to Register a Business Name in Pennsylvania
    (Last Updated On: September 17, 2023)

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    Welcome to our guide on how to register a business name in Pennsylvania! Whether you’re starting a new venture or expanding your existing business into the Keystone State, proper registration of your business name is essential for legal compliance and brand recognition. Pennsylvania offers a user-friendly registration process, allowing you to choose between forming an LLC, corporation, or a “doing business as” (DBA) name. 

    In this guide, we’ll walk you through each step, making sure your registration journey is smooth and successful. Need expert assistance? Consider partnering with ZenBusiness to streamline the process and pave the way for your Pennsylvania business to thrive. Let’s make your entrepreneurial aspirations a reality in the great state of Pennsylvania!

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    4 Steps to Register Your Business Name in Pennsylvania

    Registering your business name in Pennsylvania is an essential milestone in establishing your entrepreneurial presence within the state. To guide you through this procedure, we present four straightforward steps to officially register your business name in Pennsylvania:

    Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure in Pennsylvania

    Selecting the appropriate business structure is crucial as it determines how your business will be taxed, the extent of personal liability you may face, and the administrative requirements you’ll need to fulfill. In Pennsylvania, you can choose from several options, each with its own advantages and considerations:

    Sole Proprietorship

    The simplest business structure in Pennsylvania is a sole proprietorship, where the owner and the business are treated as one legal entity. The ease of establishing a sole proprietorship lies in its minimal legal and administrative requirements. 

    However, it’s essential to note that the owner is personally liable for the business’s debts and obligations. While registering a sole proprietorship with the state isn’t mandatory in Pennsylvania, obtaining local permits or licenses might be necessary.

    General Partnership

    A general partnership involves two or more individuals sharing the profits and losses of the business. Like a sole proprietorship, partners in a general partnership are personally liable for the business’s debts. While registration with the state isn’t required, filing a “Pennsylvania Fictitious Name Registration” (Doing Business As – DBA) in the county of operation may be necessary.

    Limited Partnership (LP)

    A limited partnership consists of one or more general partners with unlimited personal liability and one or more limited partners whose liability is restricted to their capital contributions. To establish an LP in Pennsylvania, you must file a “Certificate of Limited Partnership” with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State.

    Limited Liability Company (LLC)

    The LLC is a popular choice due to its flexibility and liability protection, similar to a corporation. To form an LLC in Pennsylvania, file a “Certificate of Organization Limited Liability Company” with the Secretary of State and create an Operating Agreement outlining management and ownership details.


    A corporation is a separate legal entity from its shareholders, providing limited liability protection. In Pennsylvania, you can choose between C-corporations and S-corporations. 

    To create a corporation, you must file “Articles of Incorporation” with the Secretary of State, specifying whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit. Corporations involve additional formalities, such as establishing bylaws, issuing stock, and conducting regular board and shareholder meetings.

    Selecting the right business structure in Pennsylvania is a crucial step when starting a business. Consider factors like liability protection, taxation, and administrative responsibilities to make an informed decision. Consulting a legal or business professional can provide valuable guidance as you embark on this entrepreneurial journey. 

    Once you have chosen your business structure, proceed to register your business name with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State to ensure your venture complies with all legal requirements.

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    Step 2: Select a Unique Business Name in Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania offers three main options for naming your business, each tailored to suit different requirements and circumstances. Carefully reviewing Pennsylvania’s specific naming regulations is essential to ensure compliance and protect your brand identity.

    When registering your business in Pennsylvania, you must select a legal entity name, which serves as the official identifier for your company in the state. It’s imperative that your entity name is unique, meaning no other business shares the same name. The state also has guidelines concerning the use of company suffixes such as LLC, LP, or Corp and requires the name to accurately reflect the nature of your business.

    To confirm the availability of your desired business name, you can use the online database provided by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Taking this step will help you avoid potential conflicts and ensure a smooth registration process.


    Obtaining a trademark provides national intellectual property protection for your business name or logo. Conducting a thorough trademark search in the USPTO database is essential to verify that your chosen name or logo isn’t already registered by someone else. Registering your trademark grants you exclusive rights, preventing others from using a similar name or logo for similar goods or services across the country.

    However, it’s essential to note that securing a trademark doesn’t guarantee unrestricted usage in all circumstances. It’s crucial to understand the scope and limitations of your trademark protection.

    Doing Business As (DBA)

    In Pennsylvania, you have the option to register your business under an official name and operate under a different one. This is commonly known as a Fictitious Name or Doing Business As (DBA) name. Registering a DBA requires filing a Fictitious Name Registration with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

    Unlike the legal entity name, a DBA isn’t required to be unique at the state level. However, it’s subject to federal trademark laws, and it’s advisable to ensure its availability to avoid potential legal complications.

    Selecting a legally compliant business name is vital to your success in Pennsylvania’s competitive business landscape. By following these guidelines, you can confidently register your business name in Pennsylvania and embark on your entrepreneurial journey.

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    Step 3: Check Business Name Availability in Pennsylvania

    Before proceeding with the registration of your business in Pennsylvania, it’s crucial to ensure that your desired business name is available and not already in use. To conduct a comprehensive search for business name availability, follow these three steps:

    Begin by conducting a federal trademark search to determine if your chosen business name has already been trademarked. Remember that federal trademarks take precedence over state-level registrations. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and utilize the TESS Search tool to perform the search. If your desired name is already trademarked, you’ll need to select a different business name.

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    Once you’ve confirmed that your business name isn’t trademarked, it’s time to check its availability within Pennsylvania. Use the Pennsylvania Business Entity Search tool to look for registered business names in the state. Ensure that your exact business name is available, and also check for any significantly similar business names that might cause confusion.

    After confirming that your business name is available for use in Pennsylvania, take an additional step to search for the availability of the .com version of your business name as a website domain. Although not every business may require a website, it’s advisable to secure the .com domain for your business name if possible.

    By registering the .com version of your business name with ZenBusiness, you secure exclusive rights to the website name, safeguarding it from potential use by others at an affordable price. Protect your business identity with ease and peace of mind.

    By following these three searches, you can ensure that your desired business name is both legally available and distinguishable from others in Pennsylvania’s business landscape.

    Step 4: Form Your Business With the State of Pennsylvania

    Once you have determined the business structure and name for your venture, the next crucial step is to officially establish your business with the State of Pennsylvania.

    For a Pennsylvania LLC, you’ll need to submit the Certificate of Organization to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The application can be made online or through mail. If you’re opting for a Pennsylvania corporation, you’ll need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the same department.

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    Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark

    After ensuring the availability of your chosen business name and securing it, you have the option to apply for a trademark to safeguard your brand. This process typically incurs a cost ranging from $225 to $400, along with potential attorney fees and a renewal fee every decade.

    While this expenditure might be significant for startups or small businesses, it provides nationwide protection under federal law. This means that if any other entity attempts to conduct business using a similar name, you’ll have legal grounds to defend your brand. However, for most local businesses, pursuing a trademark may not be necessary unless they have aspirations of expanding nationally.

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    How to File a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name – DBA?

    To file a Pennsylvania Fictitious Name (DBA), follow these simple steps:

    1. Choose a Name: Select the fictitious name you want to use for your business
    1. Verify Availability: Ensure the chosen name is available and not already in use by another business in Pennsylvania
    1. Complete the Form: Obtain the “Registration of Fictitious Name” form from the Pennsylvania Department of State website
    1. Provide Information: Fill out the form with the required details, including your business name, address, and the name and address of the owner(s)
    1. Notarize the Form: Have the form notarized before submission
    1. File the Form: Submit the completed and notarized form to the Pennsylvania Department of State, along with the filing fee
    1. Renew as Needed: Renew your fictitious name registration periodically as required by the state

    Remember to check for any specific requirements or updates from the Pennsylvania Department of State regarding filing a fictitious name.

    How to Change the Name of a Pennsylvania Business?

    In Pennsylvania, you can change your business name through two methods: by obtaining a fictitious name or by requesting an amendment to your business’s legal name.

    The first approach, acquiring a fictitious name (DBA name), allows your business to operate under an alternate name without altering its legal identity. This option is especially suitable for sole proprietorships, general partnerships, LLCs, and corporations since it allows them to utilize brand names without the mandatory “LLC” or “Inc.” suffix that’s typically part of a legal name.

    If you wish to formally change the legal name of your LLC or corporation, the recommended course of action is to file an amendment with the appropriate form:

    • Certificate of Amendment for LLCs
    • Articles of Amendment for Corporations

    Both forms can be submitted either online or by mail, along with the required $70 filing fee.

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    Business Name Registration Laws in Pennsylvania

    Here are some key points regarding business name registration laws in Pennsylvania are as follows:

    • Business Entity Types: Pennsylvania offers various business entity types, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), and corporations. Each type has its own registration requirements and regulations.
    • Business Name Search: Before registering a business name in Pennsylvania, it’s crucial to conduct a name search to ensure the desired name is available and not already in use by another entity. This search can be done through the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website.
    • Fictitious Name (DBA): If you operate a business under a name that differs from your legal business name, you’ll need to file a “Fictitious Name” or “Doing Business As” (DBA) registration with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
    • Online Registration: In Pennsylvania, business name registration is typically done through an online system provided by the Department of State. The specific process may vary based on the type of business entity you’re registering.
    • Registration Fees: There may be fees associated with business name registration, depending on the entity type and services you require. Be sure to check the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website for current fee schedules.
    • Trade Names for Corporations: If you’re registering a corporation, it’s essential to distinguish between the business’s legal name and any trade names the corporation may use. The trade names must be registered with the Department of State.

    Remember, business registration laws can vary based on the type of business and the jurisdiction. It’s advisable to consult with a legal professional or the Pennsylvania Department of State for precise and up-to-date information tailored to your specific situation.

    Bottom Line on How to Register a Business Name in Pennsylvania

    In conclusion, registering a business name in Pennsylvania sets the stage for an exciting venture in the Keystone State. By understanding the state’s registration requirements, choosing a unique and distinguishable name, and considering trademark protection or a fictitious name (DBA), you pave the way for a successful entrepreneurial journey. 

    Utilizing professional services like ZenBusiness can offer expert guidance, making the registration process a seamless experience. With determination and enthusiasm, your registered business name will leave a lasting impact on Pennsylvania’s dynamic business landscape.

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