My partner and I have established an LLC for our furniture business, but want to use a trade name that does not have "LLC" in it. Am I allowed to use a different name without filing anything? What should I file if it is the case that I need to apply for something?
Allow me to correct one thing in the prior answers: filing a fictitious name does NOT protect the name from use by others. Only a corporation or LLP/LLC filing gives you name protection for the business, and then you would have the protection only in Pennsylvania. You can see examples of this by doing a name search on the PA Department of State website; there are many businesses registered with identical fictitious names, sometime even in the same geographic area.
You mention wanting to use a trade name as your domain name, so I'm assuming you're referring to the name you want to use as your web address. Domain names can be, and often are, totally separate from your company identity. If you are going to use words in a web address but identify your company by its legal (LLC) name on your website, that's more a matter of marketing than a fictitious name. If that's the case, you might want to consider registering the domain name or words as a service mark or trademark if you want protection.
You should always use your legal name on contracts. If you have a different name you would like to use to do business, you may file a fictitious name application for that name, with the LLC as the owner. You should still, however, write any contracts in, or give as your business name on contracts with other businesses, the legal name along with the fictitious name (for example, "ABC Furniture, LLC, d/b/a Furniture World").
Of course, as with all of my online answers, my advice is limited by the brevity of your question and the facts provided. Additional information would be required to provide definitive legal advice, so this answer isn't intended to, and does not, create an attorney-client relationship.
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A fictitious name is any assumed name, style or designation other than the proper name of the entity using such name. The use of fictitious names is governed by the Fictitious Names Act of 1982, (54 Pa.C.S. Section 301 et seq.). Fictitious names no longer need to be filed at the county seat in Pennsylvania. Any entity or entities (including individuals, corporations, partnerships or other groups) which conduct(s) any business in Pennsylvania under an assumed or fictitious name must register such name by filing an application for registration of fictitious name. The surname of a person — standing alone or coupled with words that describe the business — is not a fictitious business name. The inclusion of words that suggest additional owners, such as Company, & Company, & Sons, & Associates, makes the name an assumed or fictitious name. Please note: For partnerships, the last name of all partners must be listed or the fictitious name rule applies.
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Disclaimer: Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice, but is intended for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created, or is intended to be created, hereby. Do not act or rely upon the information in this communication without seeking the advice of an attorney. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Florida. Responses are based solely on Florida law unless stated otherwise.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
It is a good idea to check to be sure the name is not reserved and to file a fictitious name with the PA Department of State, Corps Bureau to protect your name from use by others. Go to the Corporations Bureau website for forms and directions or consult an attorney. You can file it on line, but be prepared to give credit card information.
Clifford L Tuttle, Jr
Attorney at Law