It’s all in the name

The name or brand of a business can be a valuable component and business owners understandably become aggrieved if someone else sets up a company with a name which they believe infringes upon that of their own business.

The law does provide some other more complicated potential remedies for this but it is worth knowing that a specific Tribunal was set up in recent years to deal with the particular problem of new companies being incorporated with the same name as an existing business or with a name which is sufficiently similar that it is likely to mislead by suggesting a connection with an existing business.This is the Company Names Tribunal.Before, you would have to convince Companies House that the offending name was for all purposes identical and their remit did not include looking at the business that was potentially suffering. If you did not fall within the fairly narrow band of cases that they might look at then your available remedies would probably only be expensive recourse to the courts or seeking to establish intellectual property rights in your name (which by the way it can be a good thing to think of at an early stage where a brand is key).

So if you have a business (it does not need to be an incorporated limited company-you could be a sole trader or a partnership for example) with an established reputation or goodwill and you find that someone has incorporated a limited company with an identical or very similar name there is a way of trying to do something about it which is much more user friendly than standard court action.

If any of the prescribed defences do not apply then the Tribunal has the power to order the offending company to change its name.As is common these days, the Tribunal will encourage attempts to first settle any dispute by mediation and will encourage efforts to do this in the most cost effective way possible to save parties from running up legal bills. The Tribunal is part of the Intellectual Property Office in Newport which has its own mediation service.

The Tribunal has its own informative website at more information can be found on its services, how it operates and how much it costs.It has not been around for too long yet but first impressions are that this is a good initiative from the government to deal with a problem which has been on the rise in recent times with more companies being incorporated and the internet giving rise to “name squatting” problems.

Roger Sands AssociateTel: 01752 292316Email:

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