Nailing down a great name for your Pennsylvania LLC can be challenging.
You want the name to be unique and easy to remember while being legally acceptable and conveying what your business does. You also want it to be SEO-friendly so that it can easily be found on Google. That’s a lot of boxes to check.
And even if you’ve already found the perfect business name, you need to make sure it’s available. That takes several steps, as detailed in this handy guide.
Pennsylvania LLC Entity Search
The most important consideration when choosing an LLC name in Pennsylvania is to make sure it’s available and legally acceptable. Here’s how to confirm you can use your preferred business name.
1. Check for availability in Pennsylvania
Go to the Department of State website and enter your business name.
You should also search for similar business names, as you don’t want a name that can be easily confused with other businesses in Pennsylvania.
2. Check Pennsylvania LLC name regulations
In Pennsylvania, your LLC name must include the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.). In addition, it cannot have words that could confuse your LLC with a government agency. Your name must also not contain any words that imply that your LLC is a corporation.
Additionally, your business name must be distinguishable from all other business names in the state and cannot include words like bank, insurance, or university without state approval.
3. Check Trademarks
Check with the US Patent and Trademark Office to ensure the name has not been trademarked and is thus available nationally.
4. Check domain name availability
You’ll want to make sure the domain name is available. You can check at a site like GoDaddy.com and use .com or .org extensions, as those give your business more credibility.
5. Google it
Do a Google search to ensure the name is not being used in the U.S. or internationally. This is particularly important if you plan to have a strong online presence for your business.
Once you’ve confirmed these, it’s a good idea to reserve the name with the state.
How to file a Pennsylvania LLC Name Reservation
To reserve an LLC name in Pennsylvania, start by visiting the Department of State’s online filing system and then head to the name reservation form to complete the online application.
Enter all of the required information, enter your electronic signature, and click the submit button to go to payment. Alternatively, you can complete and mail a paper form.
The cost to file a name reservation in Pennsylvania is $70. Once your application is processed, your LLC name will be reserved for 120 days.
Doing Business As (DBA)
Even after all this work, you may want to do business under a name other than your LLC. First, you’ll need to register a “doing business as” or DBA name. There are two main reasons you might want to use a DBA.
- Suppose you want to add new product lines. For example, if your business name is “JJ’s Waffles,” you want to expand and offer “JJ’s Muffins.” You can have multiple DBAs under the umbrella of your one LLC.
- When you have a DBA, you can have a business bank account under that name. So if you add “JJ’s Muffins,” customers can pay “JJ’s Muffins,” and you can deposit those payments into the bank account with that name.
In Pennsylvania, a DBA is known as a fictitious name. To register a fictitious name in Pennsylvania, go to the Department of State’s online filing system and complete the registration of a fictitious name form registration. The fee is $70.
You’ll also need to follow these instructions from the Department of State’s website:
“An entity, which includes an individual party, shall ‘officially publish’ notice that it has filed or intends to file an application for registration of the fictitious name. In other words, if there is an individual listed in Box 4 of the Registration of Fictitious Name form [DSCB:54-311], advertising is required. If the registration does not list an individual, then advertising is not required. The advertisement should be placed in two newspapers of general circulation in the county in which the business will be located, one of which must be legal newspaper. If there is only one newspaper of general circulation in the county, advertisement in that newspaper is sufficient. See 15 Pa.C.S. §102 for more information on official publication. The information required for the advertisements is set forth at 54 Pa.C.S. §311(g). The Bureau makes available a geographical (county-by-county) listing of newspapers of general circulation and legal publications. The proper legal publication may also be identified by contacting the county courthouse or county bar association in the county where the principal office is located. Evidence of these advertisements is not required to be sent to the Bureau, but should be kept with the business records.”
Choosing a business name is crucial to entrepreneurial success, so if you’ve found a good one, don’t let somebody else get it. Instead, just take the steps detailed above to ensure it’s available and legally acceptable before designing a logo or printing signs.
You don’t want to run into an issue later that could impact the success of your business.