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Doing Business Under Another Name: Fictitious Name Registration in Florida

August 22, 2022

Gary Kaleita

If you own a small business in Florida, it’s likely that you are operating your business under a catchy name which describes the nature of your business, such as “Larry’s Low-Cost Landscaping” or “A-1 Affordable Auto Parts.” Even if you structure your business as a corporation, limited liability company or partnership, you may still advertise or promote your business under a different name. Any time you operate a business in Florida under a name which is different than your individual or company name, you are doing business under a fictitious name.

So that consumers of business products and services know with whom they’re dealing, Florida law requires any business operating under a fictitious name to register that name with the Florida Department of State. The only exceptions are businesses operated in the practice of their profession by attorneys licensed by the Florida Bar and by professionals licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Registration requires the filing of an Application for Registration of Fictitious Name with the Florida Department of State, accompanied by a $50 filing fee. The form and payment can be completed online at the Department’s website. The Division of Corporations further provides public access assistance at phone (850) 245-6939.

A fictious registration is good for five years, unless you sell your business and the new owner wants to use the same fictitious name. They will need to reregister it under their own name within 30 days after buying your business.

What happens if you don’t comply? Technically, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor. You could be fined up to $500 and thrown in jail for up to 60 days. However, it’s a pretty safe bet the state attorney’s office has far better things to do than prosecute you for this type of offense.

The more pragmatic penalty is that your business won’t be allowed to maintain any court actions until you register. If you get into any disputes with customers or suppliers, you won’t be able to take your dispute to court without registering first, although you will be able to defend yourself in court if you are sued. Even if you don’t register, contracts and agreements that you enter into concerning your business will still be valid and binding (although you can’t enforce them in court without registering).

Keep in mind that registration of your fictitious name in Florida is for purposes of public notice only. It does not reserve your name against future uses or protect it from competitors who may wish to use the same name. If you want to protect your name from competitors, you will need to independently register the name under state or federal law, or both.

The Florida Department of State has a separate office which handles registration of trade names, trademarks and service marks at the state level. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office handles registration of trademarks used in interstate commerce. Both procedures are fairly complex and should be handled only with the advice of an attorney who is experienced in trademark registration.

Gary M. Kaleita is a shareholder at Lowndes and has been certified by the Florida Bar as a specialist in real estate law since 1993. He can be reached by phone at 407-418-6334 or The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.


With more than 30 years of experience in real estate law, including over 20 years as a Board-certified expert in the field, Gary Kaleita has acquired the ability to navigate the complexities of sophisticated real estate deals with relative ease.

Gary has a wide variety of experience in real estate development, finance and transactions, condominiums, property owners’ associations, commercial leasing, commercial lending, and title insurance.

Gary enjoys a reputation for anticipating and avoiding problems, rather than merely reacting to them. He has years of experience handling purchases, sales and financings of commercial and residential projects, including office, industrial, retail, multi-family, single-family, condominium, resort, hotel and golf course properties. Gary has prepared and negotiated contracts for sale and purchase, performed due diligence investigations, and handled all aspects of closings, including issuance of title insurance and legal opinions. He has also performed tax free exchanges (both forward and reverse) under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, and has handled closings for housing revenue bond financing transactions with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and various local housing finance authorities.

In the area of real estate development, Gary has assisted developers in obtaining land use approvals, plat approvals and permits for various developments from a number of jurisdictions in Central Florida, including planned developments (PD’s) and Developments of Regional Impact (DRI’s). He has drafted and negotiated complex land use documents, including development agreements, cost-sharing agreements, declarations of covenants, conditions, restrictions and easements. He also has experience in mall and shopping center developments, including outparcels, and has assisted developers with the selection, formation and operation of business entities, including commercial and residential property owners associations. He has extensive experience with the formation and operation of both commercial and residential condominiums as well.

In addition, Gary has established somewhat of a boutique practice by acting as local counsel to help out-of-state lenders, investors and law firms navigate the complexities of Florida real estate law. He is frequently engaged by large national and international law firms needing assistance on a variety of issues for their clients doing business in Florida. Gary regularly provides advice on Florida law and custom pertaining to purchase and sale contracts as well as loan documents, addresses local due diligence issues, answers questions involving titles, surveys and title insurance, and provides Florida legal opinions.

Not just another real estate lawyer, before pursuing his career in law Gary served as a U.S. Naval officer on active duty for 4 years in the Mediterranean Sea, first with a patrol gunboat squadron in Italy and then at a communications station in Greece. During this period he traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. He believes his military experience is the source of the practical approach he has developed to problem solving.

Gary also took the initiative, after a homeowner in his own neighborhood was mauled by a Florida black bear in 2013, of researching what his homeowners’ association could do to limit the likelihood of future attacks. In the process, he became an expert in the subject of “bear-wise” communities and drafted a policy that his own homeowners’ association adopted, thereby becoming the first residential community to be officially recognized as bear-wise by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He has since written and spoken extensively on this subject, serves on the FWC’s Central Bear Management Unit Stakeholder Group, and has become a resource for FWC to educate other communities on the importance of bear-wise practices in areas of Florida containing black bear habitat.

Gary focuses on finding pragmatic solutions to complex problems, recognizing that clients want sensible and realistic advice in a timely manner so they can go about their business.

Chambers USA (2015)* reports that Gary has substantial experience acting as lender’s counsel and is acclaimed by market sources as an “extremely responsive, very practical and reasonable” practitioner.

*We make no guarantees or promises that the reader will realize the same or similar results

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