PA fictitious name registration

Posted on March 26, 2013 by Mike Montali in Business Compliance.

In my previous post, I explained 5 insidious myths surrounding Pennsylvania fictitious names.  My position is that fictitious names are rarely the best option for small businesses.  In certain cases however, registering a PA fictitious name is justified.  The most common situation is the existing LLC or corporation that wishes to use a new business name but does not want to form a separate business entity.  The business could be adding a brand or taking on an entirely new identity.

This post outlines the key steps involved in completing a PA fictitious name registration.

How do you register a PA fictitious name?

You would start by preparing the Application for Registration of Fictitious Name (Form 311) that you will submit to the Pennsylvania Department of State.  The proposed fictitious name must be distinguishable from the names of all other registered business entities.  You can perform a name availability search to check to see if the name is being used.

Form 311 requires you to include the following information:

  • A brief statement of the business activity.
  • The address of the principal place of business.  This must be a physical address.  The state will reject any document that includes a PO Box only.
  • The names and addresses of the individuals who have interest (ownership) in the business.  If one or more business entities have interest, then information on those entities is required.
  • A statement that the applicant is familiar with 54Pa.C.S. 332 and understands that filing a fictitious name does not create protections for the name.
  • An optional statement that lists the names of agents authorized to amend, withdraw, or cancel the fictitious name registration.
  • Signatures of all applicants.
  • Any necessary government name approvals.  Government name approvals are required to use certain words in the business name such as engineering, surveying, or architecture.
  • Any necessary consents to appropriation of the name.  These are required if the name is currently being used by another business.

Once you have completed this form, send it in to the Corporations Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of State along with a $70 payment.

What are the publishing requirements?

Pennsylvania requires publishing notice of the PA fictitious name registration in two newspapers of general publication in your county.  If available, one or both should be legal journals.  You can publish your fictitious name before or after filing form 311.  You should not submit your proofs of publication to the Department of State, but rather keep those proofs in your company records.

What does PA fictitious name registration cost?

The filing fee for Form 311 is $70 and publishing costs are approximately $200 (varies by newspaper).

How long does PA fictitious name registration take?

The state processes the fictitious name registration forms in approximately one week and sends back the filed documents in another week.  Any errors in the forms that result in a rejection will prolong the process by at least several weeks.  Publishing takes approximately two weeks.

When can I begin using my business name?

Once the business name has been approved by the state, you have the authority to conduct business under that name.  You can check the state’s records after one week to see if your registration has been approved.

How can I protect my business name?

Since a fictitious name registration does not protect the business name, it is important to consider registering a trademark.  A trademark can be registered in different jurisdictions including Pennsylvania Department of State and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

What other registrations are required?

If you are just starting your business and haven’t registered with any other government agencies, you may be responsible for other registrations including, but not limited to:

To find out about your business registration requirements, please visit our Business Registration page.