One of the first things to decide when you start a new business is what to name it.
It is common for a business to advertise and operate under a different name from its legal one.
However, Florida law requires you to register any alternate names so that the public is aware of who is actually operating the business.
An experienced business attorney can help you with every aspect of starting your new business, including helping you comply with all rules for properly registering your business’s DBA in Florida.
What Is a DBA?
DBA stands for “doing business as.” In Florida, a DBA is also known as a fictitious name.
A DBA allows you to operate your business under a different name than your own name (in the case of a sole proprietorship) or the registered name of your business.
You can apply for a DBA when you first register your new business, or you can apply for a DBA later on if you decide to make changes to your business.
A business can use a DBA to advertise, transact business, and open bank accounts.
Why Use a DBA in Florida?
There are various reasons a business might want to use a DBA.
Sole proprietorships often use DBAs because sole proprietorships are not a registered entity. If you want to operate your sole proprietorship under any name other than your own, you will need to register a DBA.
For example, let’s say Chad has a sole proprietorship in which he builds and sells chairs. He would like to put up a sign in front of his shop and start taking out ads using the business name Chad’s Chairs. Chad would have to register Chad’s Chairs as a fictitious name.
Registered Business Entities
Other business entities, such as LLCs and corporations, would use a DBA if they wanted to start operating under a different name or if they wanted to operate multiple businesses without creating a separate entity for each business.
For example, let’s say Chad sets up an LLC registered as Chad’s Chairs LLC and registers Chad’s Chairs as its fictitious name. After a few years, Chad’s Chairs has expanded its business and wants to be known for more than chairs.
Rather than register a completely new business entity, Chad’s Chairs could apply for an additional DBA to start operating under the name Chad’s Fine Furniture. Or perhaps Chad’s Chairs just wants to expand its business by selling to customers online.
To emphasize its web presence, Chad’s Chairs wants to do some of its advertising under the name ChadsChairs.com. Chad’s Chairs would then register ChadsChairs.com as an additional DBA.
Is Filing a DBA in Florida Necessary?
If you intend to operate your Florida business under any name other than your own name or the registered name of your business, you must file a fictitious name registration.
Because a company’s official legal name must include a business type designation—like LLC, Inc., or Co.—businesses that do not want to use that designation in marketing must register a DBA.
Florida requires DBA registration to protect the public from business owners who might want to hide their identity behind an alias. Registration of a DBA allows consumers to search public records and determine which individual or business is behind a fictitious name.
If you fail to file a DBA in Florida, you can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. This could carry penalties of up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Choosing Your DBA
When selecting a fictitious name, it is best to choose one that is not already being used. You can search Florida business records to determine whether your DBA is being used by another business.
Florida DBAs aren’t permitted to include business entity designations such as “LLC,” “corp,” “incorporated,” etc.
Registering your DBA doesn’t protect your business name against other people using it. So if you want to have the exclusive use of your business name, you will need to register it as a trademark.
This cannot be overstated: registering a fictitious name is not a substitute for federal or state trademark registration. You can register any name you choose, but using that name might infringe another business’s trademark rights. Likewise, your registering a name doesn’t prevent anyone else from registering the same name.Business and Trademark Attorney Ashley Brewer
How to File a DBA in Florida
Filing a Florida DBA involves several steps. We discuss them in detail here.
Before you can file a DBA, you have to publish notice of your intent to register with at least one newspaper in the county of your principal place of business.
The newspaper notice will likely cost somewhere between $30 and $100. Once it has run, the newspaper should send you a certification to confirm the publication.
Filling Out a Fictitious Name Form
Once you have published your notice with the newspaper, you can proceed to fill out your registration form. The form must include:
- Proposed fictitious name,
- Business’s mailing address,
- Name of the county where the business has its principal office,
- Names and addresses of business owners,
- Business’s EIN number, and
- Business’s Florida Document Number (for entities registered with the state).
An owner of the business must sign the form, certifying that it is correct and that they have complied with the requirement to advertise notice of the intent to file.
Filing Your Form
Fictitious Name Registration
PO Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314
The cost to file your form is $50. If filing your form by mail, you should make checks payable to the Department of State.
If you file online, you will receive a confirmation email within 24 hours of posting your registration. If you apply by mail, you will receive confirmation by U.S. mail.
Applications are generally reviewed and approved within a few days.
Update Your Registration
DBA registration is good for five years. When it is time to renew your registration, the Florida Division of Corporation will send you a notification in the mail.
However, the business is responsible to apply for the renewal if they want to keep operating under the fictitious name.
How Can BrewerLong Help with Your Florida DBA?
Registering a DBA is just one small aspect of the business formation process. Forming your business, developing it, and protecting it against legal risks is an ongoing process that involves lots of time and attention.
By working with a knowledgeable business law firm like BrewerLong, you improve your chances of building a successful business. BrewerLong provides legal services for all types of business clients and all stages of a business’s development.
To learn more about how BrewerLong can help you with your fictitious name registration or any other aspect of your business, contact us today. We offer free consultations to answer your questions and discuss how we can help with the specific needs of your business.
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