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The first step to forming an LLC in Pennsylvania is to search your desired LLC name and make sure it’s available for use.
Your LLC name can’t be already taken by another business, and must meet the Pennsylvania business name rules.
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How to Use the PA Business Entity Search Tool
Go to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations’ Business Entity Search Tool
- It’s best to search only part of your name to ensure you see everything that is potentially similar. For example, if your desired Pennsylvania LLC name is “Horizon Farms LLC”, it’s best to search “Horizon Farm”.
- This way, if there is a “Horizon Farming LLC” or “Horizon Farmers LLC”, you’ll see them. This is important, since they would be confusingly similar to your name and could cause your name to be rejected by the state.
- Leave out the designator (“LLC”, “L.L.C.”, etc.)
- Leave out any punctuation like commas, periods, apostrophes, hyphens, etc.
- You can search using uppercase or lowercase letters. The PA name database ignores capitalization.
How to Determine the Search Results:
- If the results show names that are not too similar to yours, then your desired Pennsylvania LLC name is available.
- If a “No results found for search term” message appears, this likely means your desired Pennsylvania LLC name is unique and available.
- If your desired LLC name appears exactly as you want it, your desired Pennsylvania LLC name is not available for use. You’ll need to come up with a new name or unique variation.
- If the results show a name that is deceptively similar to yours, your desired Pennsylvania LLC name is not available for use. You’ll need to come up with a new name or unique variation.
Important: Non-refundable Filing Fee
Pennsylvania’s LLC Filing Fee ($125) is non-refundable. The #1 reason LLCs are rejected in PA is because the name is not available. Please make sure you read through this lesson carefully. We cannot determine name availability for you, as this is determined by the LLC examiner who reviews your filing.
If you have any questions about your LLC name, we recommend you call the Bureau of Corporations at 717-787-1057 (Monday – Friday, 8am – 4:45pm).
Pennsylvania LLC Name Requirements & Restrictions
Before searching names, it’s important to understand the LLC name requirements and restrictions in Pennsylvania.
Here is a brief overview (more details are below):
- You must use a proper designator at the end of your LLC name.
- You cannot make it sound like your LLC is a Corporation.
- Your LLC name must be unique in the state.
- Your LLC name cannot be confusingly similar to an existing company in the state.
Your Pennsylvania LLC cannot imply that it is a Corporation. You cannot use the following Designators anywhere in your LLC name:
Your Pennsylvania LLC must contain one of the following designators at the end of its name:
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Company
- Ltd. Liability Co.
Example: If your desired name “JDM Landscaping”, it must be officially filed as “JDM Landscaping LLC”, “JDM Landscaping L.L.C.”, etc.
Tip: If you’re not sure which designator to use, “LLC” is the most common.
Comma in LLC Name
You can file your LLC name with or without a comma. For example, both “JDM Landscaping, LLC” and “JDM Landscaping LLC” are acceptable.
Confusingly Similar Name
As per PA Title 19, Section 17.3, your LLC name cannot be confusingly similar to an existing business registered in the state. LLC examiners at the PA Bureau of Corporations will use the criteria below.
The examples listed are names that the Bureau will deem confusingly similar.
- The use of a different corporate designator (Corp., Co., Inc., LLC, L.L.C. Ltd., etc.)
Example: “ABC LLC” and “ABC Inc.”
- The use of a plural
Example: “ABC’s LLC” and “ABC LLC”.
- The use of an article, such as ‘‘a’’ or ‘‘the’’
Example: “An ABC LLC” and “The ABC LLC”.
- The use of a geographic designator after the company name
Example: “ABC of Pittsburgh LLC” and “ABC of Philadelphia LLC”.
- The use of a numeral or spelled number after the company name.
Examples: “ABC 1 LLC” and “ABC 2 LLC”; “ABC 2 LLC” and “ABC II LLC”.
Pennsylvania LLC names have certain restrictions, as governed by PA Title 19, Chapter 17.
Your LLC name cannot imply that it is a government agency. You cannot use words like “Bureau”, “Agency”, “Board”, “Commission”, “Department”, etc.
Blasphemy or Profanity
Your LLC name cannot use foul language, curse words, or constitute blasphemy.
Your LLC name cannot imply that it is a bank. You cannot use the words “Bank”, “Banks”, “Banking”, “Banker”, “Bankers”, or “Trust”. Clearance is needed from the PA Department of Banking.
Your LLC name cannot imply that it is an insurance company. You cannot use the words ‘‘annuity,’’ ‘‘assurance,’’ ‘‘beneficial,’’ ‘‘bond,’’ ‘‘casualty,’’ ‘‘endowment,’’ ‘‘fidelity,’’ ‘‘fraternal,’’ ‘‘guaranty,’’ ‘‘indemnity,’’ ‘‘insurance,’’ ‘‘insurer,’’ ‘‘reassurance,’’ ‘‘reinsurance,’’ ‘‘surety’’ or ‘‘title’’. Clearance is needed from the PA Department of Insurance.
Your LLC name cannot use the words “College”, “University”, or “Seminary”. Clearance is needed from the Department of Education.
Unless you are licensed or certified by the state of Pennsylvania, and are forming a Professional LLC (PLLC), you cannot use the following words or abbreviations in your LLC name:
- “Certified public accountant’’ or ‘‘public accountant’’
- ‘‘Architect’’ or ‘‘architecture”
- “Engineer’’, ‘‘engineering’’, ‘‘surveyor’’, or ‘‘surveying’’
- “Doctor” or “Dr.”
- “Dentist’’, ‘‘Doctor of Dental Surgery”, ‘‘Doctor of Dental Medicine’’, ‘‘Orthodontist”, “D.D.S.,’’ ‘‘D.M.D.”, “Dental Hygienist’’, ‘‘D.H.’’, ‘‘Registered Dental Hygienist’’, ‘‘R.D.H.’’, ‘‘Expanded function dental assistant’’, or ‘‘EFDA”.
- ‘‘Pharmacist’’, ‘‘druggist’’, ‘‘apothecary’’, ‘‘drug store’’, ‘‘pharmacy’’, ‘‘drugs”, ‘‘medicine store’’, ‘‘medicines’’, ‘‘drug shop”, “apothecary”, ‘‘pharmaceutical’’, ‘‘homeopathic’’, or ‘‘homeopathy”.
- This list is not all-inclusive. There are further LLC name restrictions regarding Chiropractic, Law, Medicine, Surgery, Optometry, Osteopathic Medicine, Podiatric Medicine, Psychology, and Veterinary Medicine.
Public Utility Names
You cannot imply that your LLC is a public utility company. Clearance is needed from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Young Men’s Christian Association Names
You cannot imply that your LLC is associated with the Young Men’s Christian Association of Pennsylvania by using the words “Young Men’s Christian Association” or “YMCA”.
Reminders & Tips
Non-refundable Filing Fee:
If you’re not 100% sure that your desired Pennsylvania LLC name is distinguishable, don’t send in your filing until you know that it is. The filing fee of $125 is non-refundable. If you need assistance checking your name, you can contact the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations below.
Wait for LLC Approval:
Do not apply for your Federal Tax ID Number (EIN) until your Pennsylvania LLC is approved. Also, we recommend not purchasing a domain name, business cards, letterhead, signs, marketing materials, etc., until the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations approves your LLC.
Note: This is an older video. The Business Entity Search Tool’s design has since changed. However, we are including this video as it still provides helpful information regarding Pennsylvania LLC name distinguishability.
Once you find a Pennsylvania LLC name that is unique and distinguishable, you’re ready to select your LLC’s Registered Agent. We’ll discuss this in the next Lesson: Pennsylvania LLC Registered Agent.
And check out TRUIC’s business name generator if you need help coming up with an LLC name.
Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations Contact Info
If you have any questions, you can contact the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations at 717-787-1057 (Monday through Friday, 8am – 4:45pm).
How do I change my LLC name?
You can change your LLC’s name later by filing an Amendment form with the Secretary of State.
We have step-by-step instructions on how to change an LLC name in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Corporations and Associations Title: Chapter 17 – Names
Pennsylvania Corporations and Unincorporated Associations Title: Chapter 2 – Names
PENNSYLVANIA LLC GUIDE
Follow the lessons below to form your Pennsylvania LLC.
26 comments on “Pennsylvania Name Search”
Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.
Can you form LLC in Pennsylvania with name very similar to a company in a different state?
Yup, no issues there. In fact, you could form an LLC in Pennsylvania with the identical name of an LLC in another state. That is, assuming that business doesn’t have a federal trademark filed for their LLC/brand name. You can search the USPTO in that case to double-check.
Great. Appreciate it. Further grateful for LLC U! I cannot imagine the time saved due to your effort sir.
Do you think “eastern” is too similar to “northeast” , in say “eastern ice cream stand llc” , “northeast ice cream stand co”?
I think that may fall under “confusingly similar name” .
You’re very welcome Bobby! Thanks for the kind words :) It’s close, but I think it would pass. However, I can toss around some branding ideas with you if that would help. Which name is the one you want? And the business is ice cream I take it (or are these just dummy examples)?
“Eastern softwash company “
Thanks Bobby. And what does the business do?
House cleaning service Matt. Pressure washing , softwashing.
Thanks Bobby. So to comment on the original premise, if there’s an existing business called “Northeast Pressure Washing LLC”, you could form an LLC called “Eastern Pressure Washing Services LLC”. The “Northeast” vs “Eastern” is likely distinguishable enough, however, adding “Services” makes it even more distinguishable.
Some other things to consider… if you believe the business will always be local, you could include your town name. And “pressure washing” is a larger keyword on google compared to “soft washing”. So if you name your business “Hazleton Pressure Washing Pros”, you might get more business from online searches as opposed to “Eastern Soft Wash Company”. You could also just use the word “Cleaning” in your business name and then mention on your website that you offer pressure washing and soft washing.
Here’s some other ideas to think about: Keystone Cleaning Crew, Pristine Cleaning PA, Bloomsburg Pressure Wash Pros, Penn Pressure Washing Co, and Liberty Cleaning Services.
Also, you can use PA Fictitious Name(s) for marketing. For example, you can form an LLC called “Eastern PA Cleaning LLC”, but then have a Fictitious Name (DBA) called “Keystone Cleaning Crew”. Hopefully that all helps and gives you a few things to think about ;-)
Any thoughts on using/not using an ampersand (&) instead of AND in a LLC business name?
Your website is terrific! Thanks.
Thanks Ian! Personally I’d avoid it. However, it’s not strictly enforced most places, so you could bounce back and forth between using “and” and “&”.
Thank so much Matt! That is a tremendous help. I have been researching and figuring out the terminology, slowly but surely. Your site has been extremely helpful. Thanks again!
You’re very welcome Dan! Glad we could help :)
Thanks so much for the quick response. I am considering naming my business The Ordynary Ice Cream Tavern and Eatery…spelling is correct :). I guess I am getting confused between the fictitious name and the LLC name. Would I set it up as, for example, Dan B LLC dba The Ordynary Ice Cream Tavern and Eatery? Thanks for all your help. What a great website this is!
Oops! Matt, not Mark :)
No worries Dan. It happens often ;)
Hi Dan, thanks for the kind words! You won’t have any issues getting that name approved even though there are other “ordinary” businesses filed ;) If you want to display your business name to the public but leave out the “LLC”, then you’d also want to register a Fictitious Name after the LLC is setup. If you’ll use the full legal name (The Ordynary Ice Cream Tavern and Eatery LLC), then there’s no need for a Fictitious Name. Hope that helps!
My business is going to use a variation of the spelling of the word “ordinary.” I researched “ordinary” and found ten businesses using that word with several of them, in my opinion, being similar enough that they would be disallowed. That concerns me and/or confuses me. I guess my best bet is to contact the state and ask them?
Hi Dan, yes, I’d phone the Bureau of Corporations to be sure. Also, if you can provide me with your desired LLC name, I’ll run a search and let you know what I think. Thanks.
How can I search to see if there is a specific llc name . I wanted to check if there is an llc with my wife’s name on it . How would I go about doing that
Hey Nicholas, I’d do two searched. First, enter your “wife’s first name” and search. Then, enter your “wife’s last name” and search again. You could also just search the full name too. Hope that helps!
I cant see, to get this link to work. Do you have another link to search PA business names? I would like to use my existing business name. How would i do that? thank you
Hi John, the link is working. Can you try again with another web browser? Hope that helps.
That website for company name lookup still isn’t working on Chrome and Safari. Do they seriously only work on MSIE in this day and age where almost every website is agile enough across browsers? Did Yahoo purchase them or something?
Hey Chris, the whole PA Bureau of Corporations website is down today for maintenance. Just try again tomorrow. You can use in all browsers, too.