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Legal Disclaimer

When to File DBA, Fictitious Names

By Dan F. Schramm
CEO, Blue Planet Offices, Inc.

A DBA or "Doing Business As" is a fictitious name. In Florida, these must be filed with the Corporation Division of the Secretary of State.

In the past you needed to register the name with the Clerk of Court in the county in which you were operating. This got really confusing. The legislature changed that and created one place to file all fictitious names. Now, when you file the name, you can pick what county you will use it in. If you plan to operate in more than one county or want to have the freedom to operate in any and all counties in Florida, you can simply select "M" for Multiple Counties.

If you are going to operate in Florida with only your exact corporate name, you do not need to file a DBA. If you are going to use any other name, you will need to file. For instance, if your corporation is Jim Smith Corporation but you are going to do business/advertise as Jim Smith's Pizza, then you will need to file a DBA.

Blue Planet Offices, Inc. as an example has different divisions. One, GLINN Media Corporation was a separate corporation in another state for many years. It was absorbed into Blue Planet. It did not make sense to form a separate corporation for it. Thus, GLINN Media Corporation is registered as a DBA in Florida.

If you are incorporated, then you can use "INC.", "Incorporated", "CORP.", or "Corporation". If you are not incorporated, you can not use those terms in a DBA. If you are filing the DBA in your own name, you can't use these or related terms in the DBA name. Only a corporation can use those and similar terms in the DBA name.

The filing fee for a DBA/Fictitious Name is $50, which is a little less than registering a corporation. The big difference is that the registration is good for 7 years and you don't have to pay the $150 yearly annual report fee or do all the other things you must do to maintain a corporation. You can easily add up to one DBA to your business checking account. If you have more than one you would need to open separate bank accounts if there will be payments in the dba name.

If you do not have a corporation, you can usually still add a business DBA to a personal checking account. Of course, that defeats many of the purposes of having a corporation.

Warnings About Fictitious Names/DBA Usage

Filing a DBA is a legal requirement if you are not using your exact legal name in all of your advertising and operations. It keeps you legal but it offers absolutely no protection. Your DBA does not prevent anyone else from taking your name and registering a new corporation with it. It does not offer any trademark protection. I would recommend also registering your name as a state trademark to legally protect it. If someone did do business with your name, they could not register it as a DBA and you could likely stop them in court. If it is registered as a trademark, you definitely could stop them in court.

Check Your Fictitious Name in Florida

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