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What Is A Fictitious Name, And Do You Need One?


Many people find that their official corporate business name doesn’t make a great name to put out to the general public. Your official corporate name may be difficult to remember, complex, or just not related to the product you are selling, or the image you are trying to put out into the public eye.

Why a Fictitious Name?

Many businesses market and promote themselves under a different name than their official corporate name. But it’s not as easy as just calling yourself something. In Florida, you need to register for what is known as a fictitious name.

Officially registering a fictitious name can have benefits for you. For example, if you open a bank account, the bank will only allow you to open the account in your official corporate name, unless you have a fictitious name registration (sometimes called a “DBA” for “doing business as”). The fictitious name allows you to take checks made out to that name.

You also can enter into legal contracts with the fictitious name, as opposed to the legal corporate name, and generally you can do everything legally under the fictitious name that you could with the corporate name.

Fictitious names also benefit creditors, and the general public, telling the world that the company that calls itself X, is legally company Y. The law doesn’t want a company hiding its true identity behind a marketed name, and the registration allows the public to know who you really are.

When and Who can register?

You don’t have to register your fictitious name the minute you start your company – you can do it any time. But you do need to do it before you start actually using the fictitious name.

You don’t actually have to be a Florida corporation to get a fictitious name. If you are an artist, and you market yourself under “Bob’s Paintings,” even if you don’t have a separate corporation, you can get a fictitious name registration.

Your registration, once approved, lasts five (5) years. If you intend on getting a fictitious name, you will need to register your intent to do so in a publication in the county where you will primarily do business, and fill out paperwork with the department of corporations.

If your business changes hands—say, new ownership, or a sale of the business, the new business or its owners have to cancel the old fictitious name registration, and file a new one.

No Intellectual property Rights

Even if you have a registered trademark, that doesn’t automatically mean that you have a fictitious name; the state requirements are different from federal intellectual property requirements, and the granting of one, doesn’t confer any rights related to the other.

Being granted a fictitious name, doesn’t mean that you aren’t infringing on someone else’s intellectual property—you may be. The state doesn’t check to see if you “own” the rights to the name when you register.

Starting a business? We can help with your business law questions. Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.



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