Whether you’re searching for the right business name or registering your LLC with the PA Department of State, we can help. We’ve got all the information you need on how to perform a PA corporation search, plus LLC naming rules, fictitious names and registering your business.
General Rules for LLC Names
These rules typically apply to all LLCs, no matter what state they are formed in.
The business name you have chosen cannot be used by any other LLC or corporation in Pennsylvania. This is why it's so important to conduct a Pennsylvania corporation search.
It’s not enough for your LLC name to be unique. It also cannot be similar to the name of any other corporation or LLC in Pennsylvania. In addition, you cannot use the following factors to say your name is different from the name of another business:
- Suffixes, such as Corporation, Company, Incorporated, Incorporation, Limited, Corp., Co., Inc., Ltd., LLC, etc.
- Definite articles, such as “A,” “An,” or “The”
- The conjunction "And," or “&"
- The singular, plural or possessive forms of a word
- Abbreviations, punctuation, symbols, fonts, typefaces, etc.
All LLCs must have the words “Limited Liability Company,” “L.L.C.” or “LLC” in their name, usually at the end of the name.
Most states will not allow you to form LLCs with names that:
- Are very similar to the name of a federal or PA agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, Pennsylvania Police, Pennsylvania Treasury, etc.)
- Suggest affiliation with a federal or state agency or organization
- Use the term “Olympic” or any terms that are trademarks of the International Olympic Committee
- Imply a purpose that would be illegal for your business to carry out
Specific Rules for Pennsylvania Business Names
In addition to the general rules listed above, the Pennsylvania Department of State has its own naming statutes. The most important one to be aware of deals with PA fictitious names.
How to Come Up with a Unique Business Name
The perfect business name can be elusive. We have a complete guide to choosing the right name for your business, but basically, you'll want to choose a name that will:
Need help coming up with business name ideas? Try our free Business Name Generator.
Pennsylvania Business Search
Once you have an idea of the business name you’d like to use, you’ll need to complete a PA entity search to make sure another business doesn’t already have that name.
Incfile offers a fast, simple and convenient tool to look up your proposed business name. The Department of State also has a tool that lets you search the Pennsylvania business registry to see whether someone already has your desired business name.
Trademarks and Service Marks
You must be careful that your Pennsylvania LLC name does not infringe on the trademark or service mark of another business. The easiest way to make sure your proposed business name doesn't do that is to carry out a trademark search through Incfile. If no one else is using it, you can even register it as a trademark yourself.
Pennsylvania DBA or Fictitious Name
In most states, if you conduct business under a name other than your primary business name, it's called a DBA or "doing business as." Some states call it a trade name, assumed name or fictitious name.
Pennsylvania does allow this, and it uses the term "fictitious name." But that's the term for any business name you choose that is not your legal name.
For example, if your name is Mary Smith, and you open "Mary Smith's Garage," you only have to file for the Certificate of Organization.
But if you're Mary Smith and you decide to open "Fast and Furiously Good Garage," you'll need to file a Registration of Fictitious Name form in addition to filing for the Certificate of Organization.
Whether you conduct business through your primary LLC and name it something other than your legal name, or you conduct business through another entity associated with your LLC (what other states would call a DBA), you'll need to register a fictitious name.
You can also have Incfile take care of this on your behalf through our DBA Name service.
Note: A trade name is not the same as a trademark. Learn more about trademark vs. DBA.
When you register a fictitious name, you must also publish notice to inform the public that you've done so. If an individual is listed in Box 4 of the Registration of Fictitious Name form, advertising is required. If the registration does not list an individual, advertising is not required.
The notice should be placed in two newspapers with general circulation in the county in which the business will be located, one of which must be a legal newspaper. If there is only one newspaper with general circulation in the county, just the one notice in that newspaper is sufficient to meet the publication requirement. You can find more information about official publication in 15 Pa.C.S. §102, and about advertising requirements in 54 Pa.C.S. §311(g).
The state provides a geographical listing of acceptable newspapers to meet this requirement, but if you don't see a publication you need on that list, contact the Pennsylvania Department of State directly for more information.
Important: Incfile does not fulfill publication requirements when filing for DBAs or fictitious names.
Register Your Business Name with the Pennsylvania Department of State
Once you’ve conducted a Pennsylvania corporation search, checked availability, followed the naming rules and decided whether you need a fictitious business name, you can register your LLC name. There are a couple of ways to do this.