You’ve been in business for five years, and you thought your company was fairly unique. One day, you decide to go online and run a search for your own company name. To your surprise, another business comes up with the exact same name.
Is this legal? Or is it a violation of your intellectual property rights? Maybe you discover that the other business started after yours, so you know you had the name first. Can they still use it?
Are they in the same industry?
One thing to ask is whether or not the business is in the same industry. In many cases, two businesses can have similar names if they work in very different industries. The reason for this is that it won’t create consumer confusion. For instance, if you run a restaurant and the other business is an auto repair shop, consumers would never be confused and give their business to one over the other. Therefore, it’s not a problem for you to have similar business names.
Are they in the same location?
Another element to look at is geography. Often, businesses can have different names if they’re nowhere near each other. The Internet makes the world feel very small these days. You can easily find a business with the same name from another state or even another country. But, once again, this is unlikely to cause any level of confusion among local consumers, so it may not be prohibited.
It is important to understand how intellectual property laws work. Be sure you know about all the legal options you have if you think your rights have been violated.