Protecting My Small Business Name

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Most Common Intellectual Property Law Issues:

I Own a Small Business and My Name is Not Trademarked, Is it Still Protected?

While the most reliable way to protect your business name is to register your small business's name as a service mark or trademark, you may still be able to seek protection for a business name that is not registered, regardless of the size of your company.

If another business uses a name that is identical or very similar to yours, customers may be easily confused, and the use of your company's name by another company may therefore violate the laws of unfair competition

The right to use a business name belongs to you if you are the first to use it in your advertising and product identification.  Once you have done a trademark search to ensure that your name is original, it is important that you begin using your new business name on your goods and services and in your advertising immediately. 

What Should I Do if Another Business is Claiming to Have Used My Business Name First?

If another company alleges that they were using a business name before you were, you will have to prove that you were in fact the first to use it. The best way to do this will be to produce records of any product labels and advertising demonstrating when you began using the name.  

When Can I Stop Another Company From Using My Name?

You name does not have to be a registered trademark or service mark, and the name of the other company does not have to be identical to yours in order to stop them from using it. Similar names alone, however, may not be enough for you to bring a successful claim of infringement.  In order to protect a name that is not a registered trademark or service mark, you will have to show that the businesses themselves are sufficiently similar or related in order to prove that having similar names will confuse customers. 

What Relief Is Available to Me if Someone Else is Using My Business Name?

The most common form of relief where someone else is using the name of your business is injunctive, meaning that if the court rules in your favor, they will tell the other party to stop using the name and enforce that ruling if need be.  If, in addition to the unfair competition that might result from someone else's use of your name, you have suffered actual monetary loss, you may be able to recover damages also.  

Should I Contact an Attorney if Someone Else is Using My Business Name?

Choosing and protecting your business name is crucial to your company's success.  An experienced intellectual property attorney can help you conduct trademark searches and ensure that you have chosen an original name as well as represent you in any legal action you decide to take in order to preserve your rights as a business owner.

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Last Modified: 05-25-2017 05:15 PM PDT

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