How to Do a Pennsylvania Business Search:
Before starting a business, you will need to ensure that your chosen business name is available. Simply follow our step-by-step guide to check if your name is already in use by another company.
Conduct a Pennsylvania business search online.
Use the Pennsylvania online business search tool.
The Pennsylvania DOS website has a business search tool that enables users to search a database of every registered business in the state. New businesses can use this tool to query the availability of their proposed name against businesses that already exist.
Make a list of alternative spellings or similar versions of your proposed name to ensure that your name is entirely new and distinguishable from competitors.
Perform a name search.
The dropdown menu gives a few options for specifying the parameters of your search. There are six filters to choose from: "Starting with," "All words," "Any words," "Corporate name availability," "Sounds like," or "Exact Match."
You'll want to try all of them. The broader your name search, the more chance you have of finding a match. Search only the main keyword in your business name (for example, "barber"). This will give you an overview of Pennsylvanian businesses competing with that word. Try as many variations thereafter.
A search that yields no results is a good first sign on the path to confirming the availability of your proposed name.
Don't tick the "Only active corporations" box. Business names that are not active are not necessarily available to use. In most of these cases, businesses have a window period in which they can reactivate their business names. You should query the availability of such names by contacting the DOS.
Additional Pennsylvania business search steps.
Perform trademark searches.
The final step in searching your business name is to run it against both the Pennsylvania Trademark Registration database and the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) trademark database. A name that is free to use does not guarantee ownership of intellectual property. Likewise, a name that is free to use in Pennsylvania might be a trademarked name at the federal level, which can lead to legal trouble in the future. You'll want to ensure that your proposed name passes the USPTO database query too.
Reserve your business name.
You do not need to register your business name immediately. You can choose to reserve it for 120 days before officially claiming it. The cost to reserve a business name is $70.00.
There is no online method for reserving a business name, so you'll need to mail them your application. Download and fill out the "Name Reservation/Transfer of Reservation" form to apply by mail. The mailing address and instructions are on the second page.
Search social media platforms.
You'll want to ensure that the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter handles for your proposed name is not taken, for the sake of consistency across your marketing channels. Search your proposed name on these platforms and think of creative alternatives should they already be in use.
How do I look up a business license in Pennsylvania?
Navigate to the Pennsylvania Online License Verification Service website. There you'd be able to search for license information on individuals and businesses regulated by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
How can I do a business entity search in Pennsylvania?
Visit the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) website and use their business search tool to search a database of every registered business in the state.
How do I register a business name in Pennsylvania?
Visit the Pennsylvania Department of State website and download, complete and submit the "Registration of Fictitious Name" form (DSCB:54-311).
Does it cost anything to do a business search in Pennsylvania?
Searching a business name in Pennsylvania is entirely free, although it can cost $70.00 to reserve a name.
Can you reserve a business name in Pennsylvania?
Yes. You can apply to reserve a name only by mail. Names can be reserved for 120 days with a cost of $70.00.