Can two companies have same business name in different countries or states of USA? Here are 4 steps to take if you find out your name exist somewhere else. Yes, it is very possible if the business name is not trademarked or registered in the same country or state.
A trademark has a territorial aspect; it functions only within the country or state where it has been registered. Therefore, it is better for you to register your trademark in order to avoid any problems in the future.
Also since business names are registered on a state-by-state basis, the fact that a company in another state or country has the same name is usually not a cause for concern. However, there could be intellectual property issues (namely, trademark) in future when two companies have the same name.
If, for instance, you have any thoughts or plans to grow your business into a global brand (and not just local), you’ll want to be aware of anyone else using the same or similar name. Even though it depends on the nature of their business and the trademark steps they have taken, this other company could become a hindering block to you in attaining trademark protection for your company.
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How Trademarks Prevent Duplicate Names in Different States or Countries
Trademark laws are known to protect businesses from unfair competition by protecting logos, symbols, names, and slogans that uniquely differentiate them. This is because having two businesses operating with the same name or other identifying features can cause consumer confusion. One might even attract the customers of another since the consumer cannot tell the difference between the two.
Note that if there is any chance for consumer confusion, you will not be allowed to use the same name as another company. Using the same name as another business will typically not be acceptable especially when you sell different products or services but operate within the same industry, or if the name is in use by a major national brand, and if the other business registered for trademarks before you did.
In terms of business trademarks, things can get complicated and confusing. There may be a scenario where you are the first to use your business name, but another company is the first to register their trademark with the state or federal government.
Have it in mind that in most cases, courts will allow you to continue to use the name in your market but limit your business activities to your locality. But the only exception is if you are able to prove that the other company had knowledge of your business before registering its trademark. In the United States, this is considered willful infringement and will normally result in a cease and desist letter to the infringer and the possibility of civil or criminal penalties against them.
In some cases, when two businesses with the same or similar names are functioning in overlapping markets and locations, the conflict will be handled through an administrative proceeding with the US Patent and Trademark Office or with a lawsuit brought by one of the owners. These sorts of cases can become costly for businesses, so finding a way to settle the matter out of court is preferable.
4 Steps to Take When Your Chosen Business Name That Already Exists in Another State or Country
If a company with the same name you want exists in another state or country, it will involve additional steps before you can proudly open your doors and start your business. Here’s a brief overview of the steps you need to take and what you should do if your business name already exists somewhere else.
1. First Check State Records
Right before you are too serious with the naming process, it is advisable you do a little pre-emptive research. Almost every state in the United States have an online database — typically through their secretary of state — that you can access easily and search to verify available business names.
In this technological age, with just the push of a few buttons, you can extensively ascertain whether your prospective business name is taken or not. In some cases, you may be able to tweak your business name a little to ensure your company’s name is unique.
2. Expand Your Research
After you must have checked if your prospective business name is available in your own state, it’s time to look beyond. Sometimes, the plan for business is to take them nationwide someday (or at least to neighbouring states). The obvious starting point is to Google your new business name. This simple search will tell you if there is any prominent business that is already using your prospective name.
From this search you would be able to track down contact information for any businesses that may already bear your name, and use them to investigate whether these businesses are still active. If the companies with your business name are no longer in operation, this could be your opportunity to proceed.
3. Consider Your Next Line of Action
If after the above searches you find that a reputable business in another state or country is using the name you want, you have a tough decision to make. In most cases, you can still register that business name in your own state, especially if yours is a local business.
You could also take your business to other states, as long as the other business doesn’t have a presence there. However, if you do intend on expanding into the same state or country as that other company, there are some issues you have to iron out.
Note that registering a business name that matches an existing company is an express violation of trademark law, and you definitely don’t want to engage your company in any legal issues.
So you can either keep your business focused in your own state knowing that this other state is strictly off-limits (at least for the moment), or continue the pursuit of your beloved business name. Whether this is worth the additional time and effort is a personal call that only you can make.
4. Explore a Name Transfer
If you decide to acquire full ownership of the said business name, then it’s time to put that contact information you acquired earlier to good use. Since the other business presently holds trademark for that name in their state, you have to reach out to the owner directly. It’s their right if they decide to transfer ownership over to you — in some cases, they may be willing to do so.
However, that doesn’t mean this will be free of charge, and the conditions will have to be aligned between the two parties. Nonetheless, you can consider it an investment in the future of your company, especially if you believe this is the best name for your business.
Naming your business may not have been as easy as you’d hoped, but consider it practice for the future of running your company. Even though it won’t always be easy, the end result will provide you with the satisfaction you need to keep building toward greater success.
Trademark law is complicated, so it is also a good idea to consult with a trademark attorney if you have any questions or concerns regarding your business name. An attorney will be able to conduct more research and offer expert advice on whether you should use a given business name and if and when you should register a trademark.