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Is it illegal for two businesses to have similar names?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | International Trade Litigation |

It can sometimes be an issue of trademark infringement if it appears that one business is trying to copy another. For instance, maybe that business has copied the name, the logo, the slogan, the jingle or some other protected mark. Even simply using a similar name might be an intentional move just to try to deceive potential consumers.

When consumer confusion is an issue, businesses are prohibited from having similar names. You can’t start a business using the name of a famous corporation, for example, just to try to trick buyers into choosing your products. Moreover, if you run a successful business, someone else can’t copy the name just to try to steal sales from your company. That would be an infringement on your rights and your intellectual property.

What if there is no confusion?

However, there are some cases in which consumer confusion appears unlikely or even virtually impossible. In these situations, it may be permissible for two businesses to have similar names. For example, perhaps the businesses are in different countries or different states. A wide geographical difference may prevent consumer confusion.

Another example is if two businesses work in very different industries. In the United States, there is a company named Delta that makes faucets and related supplies, and there is an airline that is also named Delta. Consumers won’t be confused by the two, so they can both use a relatively similar name. But two airlines or two faucet companies may be prohibited from doing so.

Protecting your intellectual property

What this means is that trademark infringement is actually a lot more complex than many people believe. If you’re involved in a dispute, it’s quite important to understand exactly what legal steps you can take at this time.