Owners must register a business name in PA upon creating their business.

The process of registering a business name in Pennsylvania is easy with both online and mail-in form options. Following are the steps owners must take when registering a name in Pennsylvania:

  1. File the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name, form DSCB: 54-311, with Pennsylvania's Corporation Bureau.
  2. Verify availability of the desired name.
  3. Announce the business name registration in two newspapers.
  4. Incorporate the business if desired to have exclusive ownership of the name.

Registering a Business Name in Pennsylvania

A vital step to take when opening a business is registering the business's name. Upon startup, a business in Pennsylvania is automatically registered under the owner's legal name; however, many owners wish to operate under a different name. To do so, they must register a fictitious name.

The application needed to complete the first step is found at Pennsylvania's Department of State website. It is important to note that this registration is only required if the owner does not wish to use his or her legal name for the business.

Owners can check a business name availability by using either the Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI) or through the Pennsylvania Department of State website.

When publishing an announcement in the two newspapers, it is preferable that one of those papers be a legal paper. If there is not a legal newspaper available in an owner's area, then he or she can publish it in two general papers. If the owner's location only has one paper, then the announcement is only published in that paper.

The required information for the newspaper announcement includes:

  • Fictitious name of the business
  • Address of the main office
  • Name and address of the owner filing the form
  • Statement explaining that an application for a fictitious name either is on file or will be soon under 54 Pa.C.S.

A business does not automatically receive ownership of the name upon registration of a fictitious name. To receive exclusive rights, an owner must incorporate his or her business by filing the Articles of Incorporation with Pennsylvania's state department. File the Articles of Incorporation online through the state's website or by mail. If the name is too similar to another name that is already incorporated, it'll be rejected.

When it comes to payment, owners may pay the applicable fee via check or money order if mailing the application or by credit card or clearinghouse payments if filing online.

If an owner does not register the business's fictitious name but proceeds to use the name for business purposes, the Pennsylvania courts will not uphold any contracts established under that name. While this does not void any contracts made under that name, it does prevent the court's ability to enforce them. Businesses that register the fictitious name after going to court will receive a penalty.

Establishing a Sole Proprietorship in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania allows owners to create a sole proprietorship without submitting legal documents to the state's government.

When establishing a sole proprietorship, owners should apply the following steps:

  1. Decide on a business name
  2. Register a fictitious name with Pennsylvania's Department of State (if desired)
  3. Acquire any needed licenses, permits, and zoning clearances
  4. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An owner of a sole proprietorship may choose to use either his or her legal name as the business name or create a fictitious name. If the owner chooses a fictitious name, the name must stand out from the names that are already in use by other businesses.

Due to the laws surrounding trademark protections, make fictitious names unique in comparison to other companies.

To ensure availability, owners should complete a name search under the following websites:

File fictitious names with the Secretary of State as required by Pennsylvania law. The filing fee for the Fictitious Business Name Registration Form is $70.

Again, publishing an announcement in a local paper as well as a legal publication if applicable is necessary. Owners do not have to send proof of these announcements to the state; however, they should keep a copy on file.

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