1. What Is a DBA?
2. When a DBA is Needed
3. Completing a PA DBA Registration

A PA DBA registration is required when a Pennsylvania business wishes to use a fictitious name. When this registration is complete, a business' secondary name can be used in the state of Pennsylvania.

What Is a DBA?

Sometimes, businesses decide that they want to use a fictitious name for their operations. Before they are allowed to start using this name, the must file a Doing Business As (DBA) registration. Completing a PA DBA registration makes a business's fictitious name legal for use. While fictitious names are common, they do not provide a business benefits such as protections for limited liability.

Almost any type of business can use a fictitious name, but they are most popular with general partnerships and sole proprietorships. Filing a PA DBA registration fulfills the minimum requirement for business name registration in Pennsylvania.

If your legal name is a part of the name of your business, you will usually not need to file a PA DBA registration. However, if you use a name other than your legal name, then you will need to complete the Doing Business As registration process. Registering a fictitious name does not change the status of your business, meaning you would still either be a general partnership or sole proprietorship after registration has been completed. 

The main reason people choose to register a fictitious name is that they are not interested in taking the steps necessary to create an entity such as a limited liability company. Although submitting a PA DBA registration will complete the requirements for registering business names in Pennsylvania, there are serious risks that must be considered. 

When a DBA is Needed

Pennsylvania does not formally require a fictitious name registration. If you decide not to register your DBA, however, there are certain penalties that you may face. A company that has not registered with the state and uses their fictitious name on a contract will find it very difficult to make sure that the contract is enforced.

While the contracts made by an unregistered business are legal, they may not be binding. Once the business registers its name, however, the courts will enforce contracts. If an unregistered business attempts to enforce a contract through the courts and subsequently registers the name in an untimely manner, the courts may fine the business $500. 

When a Pennsylvania business registers its fictitious name, it will be able to perform several business-related tasks:

  • Receive payments under the fictitious name.
  • Use the fictitious name to open a bank account.
  • Perform business operations using the fictitious name.

The taxation status of your business will not be changed by registering a fictitious name. One of the best uses of registering a fictitious name is the ability to build the brand of your existing business under a completely new name.

No protections are provided simply by registering a fictitious name. If a business wants to protect its fictitious name, it would need to register a trademark. Depending on the nature of the business, both a domestic and international trademark may be needed.

Completing a PA DBA Registration

If you're interested in filing a PA DBA registration, the first thing that you will need to do is to guarantee that your desired name is available for use in Pennsylvania.

You should visit the Department of State website for Pennsylvania to perform a search of business entities in the state. You may also want to check the TESS system provided by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to make sure the name you have chosen will not infringe on a registered trademark.

When registering a fictitious name in Pennsylvania, you should be aware that there are restrictions related to the words you use in your business name. For example, you cannot use any words that would give the impression that your business is an insurance company, academic institution, or bank.

If the name that you have chosen infringes on the name of a corporation or LLC that has been registered in the state, your fictitious name registration will be rejected. When you're searching the availability of your fictitious name, you should only search part of the name you have chosen. Searching only a portion of a fictitious name will provide you with fuller, more accurate results.

If you need help with a PA DBA registration, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.