Archive for the ‘Startup Businesses’ Category

Aug
08

TRADEMARK REGISTRATION ON THE SUPPLEMENTAL REGISTER AND THE DOCTRINE OF FOREIGN EQUIVALENTS

On July 7, 2022, in In re Lana Grossa mode mit Wolle Handels-und Vertriebs GmbH, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (the “Board”) held that a mark utilizing the Italian word for yarn, Filati, could not be registered because the mark is generic and thus incapable of registration.

The opinion is instructive because it covers several matters pertinent to trademark registration that often take a backseat to the far more common likelihood-of-confusion registration issues.  This blog summarizes the take home points from Lana Grossa wherein the Applicant sought registration of the mark FILATI on the Supplement Register as a generic mark.

  1.  Some Background on the Supplemental Register.

The Supplemental Register (“SR”) offers legal protections to a lesser extent than the Principal Register.  SR can thus be a viable alternative to registration on the Principal Register if an applied-for mark is rejected on merely descriptive/generic grounds providing the proposed mark passes a likelihood of confusion analysis by the examining attorney.  Indeed, examining attorneys may recommend that the original application be amended to a “Supplemental Registration” application if the applied-for mark is not rejected on likelihood of confusion grounds. One can also initially apply for registration on the Supplemental Register as did the FILATI mark Applicant but such an application will nevertheless be examined to see if it qualifies for such registration.   Additionally, a “Supplemental Registered” mark may later qualify for registration on the Principal Register if the registrant can establish that the mark has become distinctive in the minds of consumers.

2.  A Mark Comprising a Foreign Word Will Not Overcome Potential Registration Issues.

Over the years, the commentator has encountered clients who mistakenly believe that using a foreign word as a mark for service(s) or good(s) provided in the U.S will eliminate registration problems.   This assumption is a fallacy.  First, trademark applications require the applicant to provide a translation of the foreign word.

Second, under the doctrine of equivalents, the foreign equivalent of a registered arbitrary English word mark may result in a finding of likelihood of confusion.  For example, a proposed mark for MANZANA (Spanish for apple) as an arbitrary mark for computers would clearly not be registrable in today’s “Apple Brand” world.

Moreover, a merely descriptive or generic foreign word mark is no more registrable than its English counter-part. As the Lana Grossa opinion states:  “[A] word taken from a well-known foreign modern language, which is, itself, merely descriptive of a product or service will be so considered when it is attempted to be registered as a trademark in the United States for the same product.”   The doctrine is, however, to be applied only when it is likely that the ordinary American purchaser who is knowledgeable in the foreign language would stop and translate the foreign word into its English equivalent.  The FILATI mark applicant had argued that the mark was merely descriptive and eligible for registration on the SR.

As a result of various websites and publications accessible in the U.S. promoting a premier international Italian yarn (as “Filati”) event, the Board concluded that the relevant U.S. consumers, particularly those with knowledge of Italian, will translate the word “Filati” into “yarn.” As such, the word “Filati” is a generic term for yarn and cannot be registered on the Supplemental Register.

As discussed above, a merely descriptive foreign word may be registered on the Supplemental Register.  A merely descriptive mark is one which describes a desirable characteristic of the specified good/service.  For example, In In re Geo. A. Hormel & Co., 227 USPQ 813 (TTAB 1985), the Board held that the applied-for mark SAPORITO, an Italian word meaning “tasty,” was merely descriptive and ineligible for registration on the Principal Register.   Interestingly the SAPORITO mark was originally registered in 1973 on the Supplemental Register by a company other than Hormel.  Reg. no. 952,895.   In 1989, that same company was able to achieve registration on the Principal Registration by showing that the mark had acquired distinctiveness and recognition by the buying public.  Reg. no. 1573637 obtained under Section 2(F) of the Lanham Act.

  1. The Stylized Lettering in FILATI Is Insufficient for Creating a Distinct Commercial Impression Separate and Apart from the Generic Word Itself.

Having found that the mark FILATI is generic, the Board next determined if the Applicant’s stylized drawing of the word mark is so distinctive that it is possible to disclaim the unregistrable components and still have a registrable mark as a whole.  Generic matter within an applied-for mark, whether the mark is to be registered on the Principal Register or the Supplemental Register, must generally be disclaimed. Here, the entire mark itself (i.e. (“Filati”) would need to be disclaimed.  Yet, an entire mark cannot be disclaimed.  TMEP § 1213.06 (2022).   The Board concluded that the FILATI mark does not create a distinct commercial impression separate and apart from the word itself.   As such the mark was not registrable on the Supplemental Register.  To understand the Board’s reasoning, compare the registered mark CONSTRUCT A CLOSET, where the stylistic rendering of the mark was found to be distinctive, with the unregistrable FILATI mark.

  1. Take Home Points.

Trademark law is not as simple as it may seem as this decision shows.   This is why a trademark attorney should be consulted so that the registration risks can be understood and discussed.  Why spend a lot of money on building brand where legal protection may well not even be available?   Contact Susan Troy at 305-279-4740 for a complimentary consultation on your branding legal requirements.

 

 WE THANK YOU READING THIS BLOG AND HOPE YOU FOUND IT INFORMATIVE.  HOWEVER, THE CONTENT IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATION ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR ANY  ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

 

©2022

Troy & Schwartz, LLC

Where Legal Meets Entrepreneurship™

 (305) 279-4740

 

 

 

 

 

May
05

BEWARE OF PATENT LAW’S ON-SALE BAR WHICH CAN THWART PATENT RIGHTS

Take Home Points

  1. File at least a provisional patent application before taking steps to commercialize and sell an invention.
  2. Understand the ramifications of the on-sale bar to patentability.
  3. If engaging in experimentation with others prior to filing a patent application, ensure that contracts are very clear concerning the experimentation purpose.
  4. Be very careful about making an offer for sale of the invention prior to filing a patent application. An offer for sale can take many forms including a contract, proposal and/or invoice.

Section 102(b) of the Patent Act involves the on-sale bar to patentability.  The America Invents Act (“AIA”) amended § 102(b).  Any patent issuing from an application filed before May 16, 2013 which is later subjected to an on-sale bar analysis in a patent infringement analysis will be analyzed under pre-AIA § 102(b). This section states that a patent claim is invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) if “the invention was  . . .  on sale in this country more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States.”

This commentator recently published a blog on the CAFC’s February 2022 opinion in Junker v. Medical Corp., Inc where the Court held that the patentee had not timely filed a patent application under § 102(b) of the Patent Act.  Also see that blog for a comparison of the pre-AIA § 102(b) and the post AIA statute.  In Junker, the patent owner’s damages for patent infringement awarded by the district court were negated.  Now we have another decision in just over two months where the patent owner has had patent claim rights adversely affected because of failure to timely file a patent application.

On April 29, 2022, in Sunoco Partners Marketing v. U.S. Venture, Inc., the CAFC again addressed the on-sale bar to patentability.  The patent at issue involved an application filed on February 9, 2001.  Accordingly, based on 35 U.S.C. § 102(b), the critical date (the latest date on which the patentee could have made an offer for sale without violating the on-sale bar) was Feb. 9, 2000.  Here, the patentee’s offer for sale was Feb. 7, 2000.  Put another way, once the offer for sale was made, the patent applicant had exactly one year to file the patent application or until Feb. 7, 2001.

In Sunoco, the defendant asserted an on-sale bar defense to invalidate claims in two of Sunoco’s patents. To prevail, the defendant needed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the patented invention was both: (1) “the subject of a commercial offer for sale”; and (2) “ready for patenting.”  Pfaff v. Wells Elecs., Inc., 525 U.S. 55, 57 (1998).

A factor which may allow the patent owner to negate an on-sale bar invalidation is whether the offer for sale occurred primarily for purposes of experimentation.  The “experimentation” exception to the on-sale bar was first articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Elizabeth v. Am. Nicholson Pavement Co., 97 U.S. 126, 137 (1877):  [E]xperimental use allows inventors to delay patenting to engage in “bona fide effort[s] to bring his invention to perfection or to ascertain whether it will answer the purpose intended.”  At the same time, “[a]ny attempt to use [the invention] for a profit and not by way of experiment” before the critical date will “deprive the inventor of his right to a patent.”  Ultimately, as the City of Elizabeth court explained, the on-sale bar is related to the monopoly afforded to a patentee – to have the government-granted right to seek legal recourse for the unauthorized use of the patented invention for a statutory period of time.   The on-sale bar prevents a subsequent patentee from “acquiring an undue advantage over the public by “preserv[ing] their monopoly . . .  for a longer period than is allowed.”

Sunoco, the current owner of the patents at issue, argued the on-sale bar was not violated because the inventor’s company, MCE Blending (“MCE”) offer to sell the invention to Equilon Enterprise, LLC (“Equilon”) was primarily for experimentation purposes.  The district court agreed and held found that the defendant’s on-sale bar defense was negated by the experimental use doctrine.

The CAFC disagreed on the basis of the terms of a contract between the inventor’s company and MCE.  The opinion is instructive because it demonstrates how a contract’s terms can play a critical role in upholding or defeating patent rights.  Whether such a transaction was for primarily for experimental or commercial purposes is a “question of law to be analyzed based on the totality of the surrounding circumstances.”   The Sunoco court assessed the transaction “under contract law as generally understood, focusing on those activities that would be understood to be commercial offers for sale in the commercial community.”

The invention was for an automated butane-blending system to maximize a desirable property of combining butane and similar gasoline components.

Based on the following contractual words and terms, the transaction was deemed to be a commercial offer for sale for the following reasons:

  1. The contract expressly described the transaction as a sale without any mention of any experimental purpose.
  2. The contract stated that MCE already developed the relevant technology and equipment, that Equilon wanted to purchase it, and that MCE was willing to sell it, install it, and supply butane for it in return for Equilon’s agreement to purchase several hundred barrels of butane from it over a period of five years.
  3. The contract stated that MCE is willing to install the blending Equipment and to supply the butane required for such blending to Equilon.
  4. The contract stated that the ownership and title to the Equipment shall be conveyed to Equilon by MCE upon completion of the installation and training. MCE was to execute a bill of sale to effectuate the conveyance of ownership of the Equipment to Equilon.
  5. The contract referred to Equipment Testing and not Experimental Evaluation.

The district court concluded that there had been no offer of sale of the invention because the contract “did not require Equilon to pay MCE anything in exchange for the system which incorporated the invention.  In contrast, the CAFC opined that Equilon purchased MCE’s equipment by committing to buy MCE’s butane.  In other words, it incurred a real if indirect cost.   Had the contract not intertwined the equipment’s required installation with Equilon’s obligation to buy butane, the CAFC indicated that it would not have characterized the transaction as a sale.

The CAFC further emphasized that the concept of experimental use can be difficult to establish.  For example, the contract had a section entitled “Equipment Testing” with two sets of testing:  pre-installation testing and post-installation testing.  Sunoco argued that MCE wanted “to experiment at the actual tank farm and determine whether their inventive idea was capable of performing its intended purpose in its intended environment.” MCE therefore would need access to Equilon’s facility to test under action conditions.  However, testimony revealed that the testing, which focused on determining whether that system could communicate with one of the equipment’s components was not done at Equilon, after all but by a third party.  Additionally, the testing could have been done at any time prior to entering into the offer for sale with Equilon.   This was not a situation involving, e.g., street pavement, which cannot be experimented upon satisfactorily except on a highway.  Sunoco court quoting City of Elizabeth, 97 U.S.C. 134.

The commentator adds that large, expensive equipment is often set up and qualify assurance tests conducted by the seller’s employees.  However, these are not “experimental purpose” activities because the buyer is expecting the equipment to work.  A good example is medical diagnostics equipment.

The inventor’s subjective intent concerning experimentation is of minimal importance.  The courts have generally looked to objective evidence to show that a precritical date sale was primarily for experimentation.   The opinion includes a useful list of objective indicia relied on by the courts in footnote 5.  In this case: 1) the terms of the sale agreement itself constituted objective evidence; and 2) the nature of the experimentation was such that it could have been done prior to the sales offer.

In conclusion, the CAFC held that the Equilon agreement was an offer for sale to commercially exploit the invention rather than primarily for experimentation purposes. Equipment which incorporated the invention was ready for use at the time the contract was entered into and ready for patenting based on objective evidence.   The district court’s experimental-use determination was reversed and its infringement determination with respect to the pertinent claims was vacated.   The decision involved some other issues which are separate from the 102(b) discussion of this blog for those interested.

 

If you have any questions about when you should file a patent application to preserve your rights, contact Susan at 305-279-4740.

 

WE THANK YOU READING THIS BLOG AND HOPE YOU FOUND IT INFORMATIVE.  HOWEVER, THE CONTENT IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATION ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING ANY ACTION THAT MAY HAVE LEGAL CONSEQUENCES, CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.

 

©2022

Troy & Schwartz, LLC

Where Legal Meets Entrepreneurship™

(305) 279-4740

 

 

 

Apr
19

CAN LEGALLY IDENTICAL REGISTERED TRADEMARKS CO-EXIST ON THE USPTO’S PRINCIPAL REGISTER FOR TRADEMARKS?

Opinion Background & Discussion – In re Dare Foods, Inc.

Trademark blogs often focus on detailing decisions by the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (“TTAB”) and the courts over whether a mark should be approved for registration or not based on the likelihood confusion with an existing registered mark.  However, trademark law provides a mechanism through which two registered marks having different owners can co-exist.  How is this possible? Because the mechanism involves a co-existence or consent agreement between a registered mark owner and an applicant.  As the Federal Circuit Court of Appeal’s predecessor court stated in the 1973 seminal Dupont case,

[W]hen those most familiar with use in the marketplace and most interested in precluding confusion enter agreements designed to avoid it, the scales of [likelihood of confusion] evidence are clearly tilted.  It is at least difficult to maintain a subjective view that confusion will occur when those directly concerned say it won’t.  A mere assumption confusion is likely will rarely prevail against uncontroverted evidence from those on the firing line that it is not.

The cited wording pertains to Dupont factor #10 in a likelihood of analysis determination which was referred by the Dupont court as the “market interface” factor.

On March 29, 2022, the TTAB recently reversed the examining attorney’s refusal to register the mark RAINCOAST DIP for “snack food dips” in view of the registered mark RAINCOAST TRADING for seafood products on likelihood of confusion grounds.  Note that the USPTO routinely finds likelihood of confusion problems with a registered mark and an applied-for mark where both marks have the same word as the first word (the aspect of the mark consumers are most apt to focus on) when the same or related goods/services are involved.  For example, the TTAB itself found that the involved goods were related because “it is not uncommon for snack food dips as well as seafood and seafood snacks to emanate from the same source.”    It was thus not surprising that the examining attorney found likelihood of confusion because the marks are more similar than dissimilar in appearance, and sounds, and “particularly connotation and commercial impression.”  The TTAB agreed.

However, the TTAB found that the examining attorney had failed to give proper credence to a 2013 agreement between the parties’ predecessors.  That agreement was detailed and covered the typical factors the TTAB will look at in determining whether the agreement meets at least the following requirements:

  1. Shows agreement between both parties;
  2. Whether the agreement includes a clear indication that the goods or services travel in separate trade channels;
  3. Whether the parties agree to restrict their fields of use;
  4. Whether the parties will make efforts to prevent confusion and cooperate and take steps to avoid any confusion that may arise in the future;
  5. And whether the marks have been used for a period of time without evidence of actual confusion.

Simple agreements, which some sarcastically refer to as “naked agreements”, will not qualify as suitable co-existence/consent agreements.  Here, the TTAB concluded that the parties had entered into a detailed agreement with sufficient parameters for allowing the existence of the two registered marks.

This commentator has drafted detailed co-existence/consent agreements resulting in registration of an applied-for mark.  One fact that can be helpful is when the goods/services are provided in a different geographical market.  For example, this type of agreement was entered into between a Florida eatery (the commentator’s client) and an Oregon eatery. Obviously, the registered mark owner must be willing to enter into such an agreement.  Had the Oregon eatery instead been a Georgia-based company owned by a franchisor who planned to open franchise restaurants in Florida and across the Southeast, the possibility of obtaining a “USPTO-acceptable” co-existence/consent agreement would likely have been more difficult because of the stronger possibility of overlapping trade channels.

Take Home Point

A properly-drafted, accurate co-existence/consent agreement with appropriate provisions may allow an applied-for mark to be registered by the USPTO even where the applied-for mark would not otherwise be registered on the basis of its likelihood of confusion with the registered mark.

In Need of Legal Counsel on Trademark Matters?

Contact Susan at 305-279-4740 if you have any questions about co-existence/consent agreements or any other matter related to trademark law.

 

               THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN THIS BLOG.

AS USUAL THE CONTENT IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE.


© 2022 by Troy & Schwartz, LLC

 

 

 

 

Mar
10

UNICOLORS, INC. V. HENNES & MAURITZ, LP:  U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES THAT MISTAKES OF LAW DO NOT INVALIDATE A COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION

On Feb. 24, 2022 in a 6 to 3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that mistakes of law – and not only mistakes of fact – could protect copyright infringement lawsuit plaintiffs from losing their copyrights on grounds of inaccurate registrations.  The decision is a win for creators who own registered copyrights.  Remember, since 2019, copyright registration is an absolute requirement for commencing a copyright infringement lawsuit as the result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v Wall-Street.com, LLC.

Background of the Lawsuit

In 2020 Unicolor, a fabric design company, sued fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz, LP (H&M) for copyright infringement of Unicolor’ copyrighted 2-dimensional fabric designs.  Unicolor’ registered copyright stemmed from its copyright registration for 31 separate designs allegedly included in the same unit of publication.  The Copyright Office’s regulations governing the submission of applications provides that a single application may cover multiple works only if they were “included in the same unit of publication.” The opportunity to submit multiple works in one application can save the applicant considerable filing fees.  H&M argued that Unicolor had failed this requirement by making some of the designs exclusively available to certain customers while offering the rest to the general public.  That is, the designs were not included in the same unit of publication.

The Relevant Statute

The Copyright Act includes the following statements under section § 411(b):

(1)  A certificate of registration satisfies the requirements of this section and section 412, regardless of whether the certificate contains any inaccurate information, unless—

(A) the inaccurate information was included on the application for copyright registration with knowledge that it was inaccurate; and

(B) the inaccuracy of the information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.

(2) In any case in which inaccurate information described under paragraph (1) is alleged, the court shall request the Register of Copyrights to advise the court whether the inaccurate information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.

The Decision

The Unicolor case involves interpretation of § 411(b)(1)(A), commonly referred to as a safe harbor provision.  The District Court determined that because Unicolor did not know when it filed its application that it had failed to satisfy the “single unit of publication” requirement, Unicolor copyright registration remained valid by operation of the safe harbor provision.  The Ninth Circuit disagreed and instead opined that the safe harbor provision only applied to good-faith mistakes of fact, not law.  Unicolor had known the relevant facts surrounding publication of the designs; its knowledge of the law (or lack   thereof) was irrelevant

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the District Court by holding that 411(b)(1)(A) is applicable to both mistake of law and mistake of fact.  As such, lack of either factual or legal knowledge can be the basis for the application of the statute’s safe harbor provision.

In finding for Unicolor, the Court found that cases decided before § 411(b) was enacted “overwhelmingly” found that inadvertent mistakes in copyright registration did not invalidate copyrights.  The court also referred to the legislative history which suggested that § 411(b) was enacted to make it easier, not more difficult, for nonlawyers to obtain valid copyright registrations.  One of the goals behind the new section was to “improve intellectual property enforcement in the United States and abroad.” H. R. Rep. No. 110–617, p. 20 (2008).  Section 411(b) did so in part by “eliminating loopholes” that could be exploited to block otherwise valid copyrights.

H&R had argued that copyright owners would be allowed to avoid the consequences of an inaccurate application by claiming lack of knowledge.   The Court emphasized that courts need not accept the copyright owner’s claim that it was unaware of the relevant legal requirements.  For example, willful blindness may support a finding of actual knowledge on either the issue of law or fact, triggering the application of 411(b)(1)(B).

The Court’s opinion did not address section 411(b)(1)(B) which states: “the inaccuracy of the information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.  Section 411(b)(2) makes it clear that any decision concerning the validity of a registered copyright is not made by the court but by the Register of Copyrights.  This step is generally commenced upon the court’s grant of a defendant’s motion to Submit the Matter to the Register of Copyright and then submitting the matter to the Register of Copyrights. Based on Unicolor, the Register of Copyrights should only be involved if the court finds that the copyright registrant had knowledge of the facts and/or law associated with registration’s error(s).    In contrast to registered trademarks and patents, a federal court has no right to invalidate a registered copyright.  It’s up to the Register of Copyrights to determine what impact, if any, the misinformation had on the Copyright Office’s decision to register the copyright to the designated owner in the first place.

Take-Home Points

The decision helps bolster the validity of copyright registrations involving errors made by the applicant.  In the commentator’s opinion, applicants should not automatically assume that all errors are “excusable.”  Nevertheless, it’s still a good idea to ensure that all information presented in copyright registration applications is accurate to start with to prevent a situation where the defendant draws out the case by asserting the registration is invalid.  Also, where an attorney files the application on behalf of the applicant, will the attorney’s error be “excused” for errors of law?

On the other hand, defendants who think they can get away with infringement by trying to invalidate the plaintiff’s registered copyright in a future infringement lawsuit should think twice.  This approach is akin to a shoplifter blaming the retailer for not having shoplifting preventive measures in place.

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN THIS BLOG.  WE HOPE IT WAS INFORMATIVE.  HOWEVER, IT IS PRESENTED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE!

 

Intellectual property law is a complex area of the law.  Contact us at 305-279-4740 for a complimentary strategy session on protecting your inventions, creative works, brands, and proprietary information through patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets or our litigation services involving intellectual property disputes.   We represent both individuals and business entities.  Our mission is to serve innovators and creators in protecting the fruits of their hard work and ingenuity through our Client Services Creed:  Conscientious, Rigorous, Energic, Empathetic, and Diligent legal services. 

 


© 2022 by Troy & Schwartz, LLC

 

Jan
11

OUT-OF-STATE CORPORATIONS AND LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES TRANSACTING BUSINESS IN FLORIDA – DOES THE ENTITY NEED TO BE REGISTERED TO DO BUSINESS IN FLORIDA?

Several states including Delaware, Wyoming, and Nevada are popular states for incorporation and limited liability company formation for privacy and taxation reasons.  But what if the corporation or LLC will actually be transacting business in Florida and not in its state of incorporation/formation?

Under Florida law, such LLCs or corporations (known as foreign LLCs or corporations, collectively foreign entities) may not transact business in Florida until they obtain a certificate of authority from Florida’s Department of State.  Over the years, I have encountered several foreign entities that have not obtained this certificate even though they were clearly a business operating in Florida.  In one case, the entity could not file an breach of contract lawsuit until it had received its certificate of authority and paid a fine.

Both incorporation and limited liability formation in all states is relatively simple and typically carried out by a non-attorney.   As for Florida, the failure of the foreign corporation to early-on obtain a Florida certificate of authority is generally the result of unfamiliarity with the law by non-lawyers.

According to Florida law, both foreign corporations and limited liability companies must not transact business in Florida until it obtains a certificate of authority from the Department of State.   See §607.1501 of the Florida Corporations Statute and §605.0905 of the Florida Revised LLC Act.   Neither statute provides guidance as to what constitutes “transacting business.” Both statutes do, however, provide a non-exhaustive list of activities which do not constitute “transacting business” such as:

  • holding managers’ meetings or members’ meetings (LLC) or board of directors/shareholders meetings (corporation);
  • maintaining bank accounts;
  • collecting on debts or enforcing mortgages;
  • transacting business in interstate commerce;
  • conducting an isolated transaction that is completed within 30 days and that is not one in the course of repeated transactions of a like nature;
  • owning or controlling a subsidiary corporation or LLC incorporated in or transacting business in Florida;
  • owning real estate or personal property located in Florida that produces no income (the statutes make a specific exception for income-producing property).

As for “transacting business,” the following activities are examples of transactions that likely require registration:

  • Having a physical presence in the state such as a business office, warehouse, or store;
  • Having employees or payroll in Florida;
  • Applying for and obtaining a business license in Florida.

Are there any ramifications if a foreign entity needs a certificate of authority to transact business, but does not get one?  Legally, the entity may not file a lawsuit in a Florida court, and if a lawsuit is filed, the court may stay the proceeding until the unregistered foreign entity obtains a certificate of authority. The unregistered entity may, however, defend the lawsuit. In addition, any contracts executed by the unregistered entity are still valid, notwithstanding the lack of a certificate of authority. By transacting business in Florida without a certificate, the entity is deemed as a matter of law to have appointed the Secretary of State as the company’s agent for service of process.  Finally, the entity is liable to the Secretary of State for civil penalties for each year (or part thereof) that it operates without a certificate of authority.

Practically speaking, an entity that is conducting its business operations within Florida, entering into contracts executed in Florida with other Florida entities or Florida residents, and/or is earning money in Florida from Florida businesses/residents should register the foreign entity in Florida.  Florida banks and financial institutions may also prefer, even require, that the foreign entity be registered as a Florida foreign entity.

The forms for registering a foreign corporation or LLC are relatively straight forward.  Note that you must provide a Certificate of Existence, no more than 90 days old, from the original state of entity formation.  A Florida registered agent is required.  You are also required to list the date that your entity first started transacting business in Florida.  If you have been conducting business as a foreign corporation before obtaining a certificate authority, you may be responsible for any back Florida Corporate Income Tax and a penalty.

If you are registered corporation, you will be subject to Florida Corporate Income Tax based on Florida-specific adjustments for corporations doing business outside of Florida.  LLCs themselves do not pay income taxes, only their members do.  Florida is one of the few states which does not have a state income tax for individuals.  Accordingly, Florida LLC members will not owe state income tax on their LLC earnings.  Some states, but not Florida, impose a separate fee on LLCs for the privilege of doing business in the state.

Finally, note that the foreign corporation or LLC must have a name distinguishable from other companies already registered in Florida.  Otherwise, the registrant will be required to register an alternative name to use within the state for a foreign corporation/LLC Florida qualification action.

              THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN THIS BLOG.  AS USUAL, THE CONTENT IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE & IS PROVIDED SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. 


© 2022 by Troy & Schwartz, LLC

 

 

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