Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel
United States: Can another company have the same name as yours?
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You quit your job to start your own business. You spent months working on the branding, coming up with the name and getting everything in place.
Then, just weeks before launch, you Googled your own company name. What you have found is that there is another company that already has the exact same name. Will they sue if you use it, claiming you are infringing on their intellectual property? Or is it allowed for two companies to have the same name?
The aim is to limit consumer confusion
It can go both ways, but the thing to remember is that the government does not want to allow consumer confusion. Trade names are protected so that consumers are not tricked into thinking they are buying from a business they are not actually in.
This means that two companies can have the same name or similar names in certain situations. The first is if the business is in another state. For small businesses that don’t have a national audience, you might be able to have the same name as one that’s in a very different geographic area. It’s unlikely and maybe even impossible for consumers to be confused about the two.
Another reason this is allowed is if you work in very different industries. Maybe you are starting an investment business, but the other business is focused on providing lawn care services. The clientele you are trying to reach is not the same at all and no one will be confused as to which company to turn to for their needs.
That being said, you could end up in a legal dispute that you didn’t see coming. If so, make sure you know all of your legal options to protect the business you’ve built.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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