Imagine this: You’ve come up with a genius business idea and are 100% certain that it is THE next big thing. After much debate you brainstorm a name that is bound to go viral and quickly dig into bringing it all to life. You buy a website domain, grab the social media handle, and are well on your merry way to entrepreneurial success when you find out…someone else has your business name. *Cue sad trombone*
Do you throw a tantrum? Contact the person and cause a scene? Look at trademarking the name before they can? Or is it time to relinquish your favorite business name (even though it makes you feel like your great idea is crumbling to the ground)?
In Episode #135 of The Legal Paie Podcast, I walk you through what you can and cannot do when it comes to using the same business name as someone else. Choosing a name for your business is important, expensive, and often an emotional process so it’s worth understanding how to navigate these sticky situations.
HOW TO PICK A BUSINESS NAME
When you are first starting out, it's important to make sure you are not using the same business name as someone else in your industry. If you are in the wedding and event industry in the Northeast and find a plumber with the same business name in the Southwest- don’t worry about changing your name. Legally speaking, you are probably okay because the likelihood of confusing the two brands is slim to none. On the other hand, if you own a business that sells tees and tanks and you want to use a name that a coffee shop is currently using- be careful! If that shop also sells branded t-shirts, you’ll want to consider a different name because they tangentially sell a clothing item in a similar realm to your business.
While some situations are more nuanced, others will automatically result in a Cease and Desist letter (with a gut-punch fine). ‘Apple’, ‘Spanx’, ‘Disney’, ‘Vogue’ - these are big enough companies that you should never mess with their name unless you want to get sued. They are federally trademarked, have in-house lawyers, and keep tabs on who may be infringing on their mark. Not worth it.
So how DO you safely pick a business name? Research research research!