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Episode 135: Can I Use The Same Business Name as Someone Else?
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 Paige 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!
Search for the name on Google. Search your name with keywords for your business and goods. If you find a company with your same name, look to see what goods they sell, or what they offer customers. Ask yourself if there is a chance they could ever sell what you are offering as a natural expansion to their business. If so, it’s time to pursue other options.
Search for the name in your State Business Registry + State Trademark Registry. If you find a match, do some digging and find out what the other business is, whether it's still active and where it is located.
Search for the name in the United States Patent and Trademark office. This is where things might get a bit complicated because the USPTO is a little hard to navigate and you may end up missing a business that has your name. If you are really concerned about your business name, a trademark attorney may be your best bet at finding out whether someone is using your name.
More From This Episode
Press play on Episode 135 and you’ll learn more tips on how to pick your business name, steps you can take to KEEP your business name, why trademarking is usually a good idea, and how to address disputes regarding your business name should they arise. If you are in the process of establishing your business or choosing a name, this episode is a MUST listen and will set you up for success.
If you want more helpful business advice like you’ll hear on the podcast, be sure to join The Legal Paige Facebook Community where thousands of entrepreneurs just like you are getting real-time answers about running a professionally and legally legit business.
Lastly- if this episode has inspired you to protect your brand, you’re in luck! I created a guide, "Legally Protecting Your Brand and Trademarking Guide" to explain the legalities of protecting your brand including copyrighting, trademarking, Non-Disclosure Agreements, contracts, and designing a unique logo. I also walk you through a very detailed step-by-step tutorial of how to search the United States Patent and Trademark Office trademark database and how to register your trademark application on the TEAS platform. (That alone is worth over $1500 if you were to hire an attorney to do it for you).