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In Pennsylvania, a business operating under a name that is different from the owners will need to register a Fictitious Name. Learn more about what a Fictitious Name is, who needs one and how to register.
What is a Fictitious Name?
A Fictitious Name, also known as a DBA or “Doing Business As”, Trade Name, or Assumed Name is a name used by a business, that is different from the legal name of the business.
When a business wants to operate under a name other than their legal name, the state of Pennsylvania, like most states, require the business to register their business name. The registration requirement was designed to protect consumers from business owners hiding anonymously behind the name of a business.
Who needs to register?
The requirements and need to register a Fictitious Name are organized under Pennsylvania Statutes https://www.pacode.com/secure/data/019/chapter17/subchapctoc.html. These requirements vary depending on the type of business entity.
Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are the most common entities to register for a DBA.
The legal name of a sole proprietor or partnership can be the owner’s full first and last name, which can be used without registering. For example, if John Smith starts a business repairing computers operating under John Smith he doesn’t need to register. If John decides to name his business John’s Computer Repair then he will need to register.
Corporations and Limited Liability Companies won’t typically register a fictitious name since a unique entity name is created during the formation process. Some will file for a DBA if they have another business they want to operate under their corporate/LLC umbrella to keep the liability protection without having to form another entity.
Pennsylvania Fictitious Name Registration Form
How much does it cost to register?
The filing fee to register a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania is $70, plus the cost of publishing a legal notice.
What are the steps to file a Fictitiouos Name in Pennsylvania?
Step 1 – Verify Name Availability
A business may not register a name that is the same or similar to another business in Pennsylvania.
Names can be searched on the Secretary of State’s website. Learn how to do a business name search in Pennsylvania.
Step 2 – Fill out the Form
Information requested on the form includes:
- Fictitious name being registered
- What the business does
- Address of the principal place of business
- Names and address of owners/members/officers
Step 3 – Submit the Form
Submit the filing fee and form. If mailing, the address is:
Pennsylvania Department of State
Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations
P.O. Box 8722
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8722
Step 4 – Publish a Legal Notice
Last, the applicant has to publish a notice they have filed or intend to file an application for registration of the fictitious name. The legal notice should be placed in two newspapers that have circulation in the county where the business will be located. If there is only one newspaper with circulation in the county, that publication will be sufficient.
Lists of newspapers are provided by county by the Department of State’s website – www.dos.pa.gov/BusinessCharities/Business.
After the notices run, an affidavit will be returned to the applicant. This proof of the publication isn’t filed, but should be kept with the business records. If the notice isn’t published or proof of the publication isn’t available, the name isn’t enforceable and the owner may receive a $500 penalty.
DBAs can’t be registered using words that are related to banking, education, or occupations that require licensing (engineering, architecture, etc), unless the business is licensed to provide these services.
Names may also not contain entity designators such as corporation, LLC, limited, etc.
Protecting your business name
While registering your Trade Name will keep someone else from registering the exact same name in Pennsylvania, it does very little from someone else operating a business under that name in other states. If stopping others from using your business name is important, you can protect it through a trademark.
Learn more about trademarks.
If you have questions about the process, you can contact the Pennsylvania Department of State at 717-787-1057.