Playing the name game: what to do if the company name you want is taken
Naming your company is not always easy. Like choosing baby names, you want to get your company’s name just right. So what happens when you discover that your chosen company’s name has been taken by someone else?
The most common route is to make an application to the Company Names Tribunal (CNT) to object to the name of the other company. The CNT deliberate ‘opportunistic registrations’ – company names which are thought to have been registered to capitalise on the success of that company – and will consider names which are identical or sufficiently similar.
Usually, such opportunistic registrations occur in situations referred to as ‘cyber-squatting’, where cyber squatters lock down one or more variations of a well-known name as a ransom to extract remuneration from a high-profile company.
Evidence is required from both sides to demonstrate either the goodwill or reputation of their company, which can be illustrated with the company’s attributes, background and longevity.
Those defending claims would have to show that the company has operated in good faith and that there is no significant adverse effect on the applicant company.
If not an opportunistic registration, companies can file a complaint that the name is ‘too like’ an existing company name.
The CNT is just one of many examples of enforcement measures that companies have at their disposal to protect branding and reputation. Names are important, but due diligence even more so, especially in respect of existing third party intellectual property rights.