If you discover that another company has the same name as your business, you may be worried that it’s an intellectual property violation. Maybe your company existed first and the other company is infringing on your own trademarks. Maybe you believe that the other company existed first, and you’re concerned that your business may face legal ramifications stemming from using the same name.
Are these concerns valid? Is it possible for two different companies to have the same name without violating the other business’s rights?
Is the similarity going to cause consumer confusion?
The thing to remember is that these laws weren’t created simply to keep businesses from having the same name. They were created to eliminate consumer confusion. So there are situations in which having similar or even identical names is not going to create consumer confusion, and you may therefore be allowed to operate without changing your name. But if confusion would be created, then one of the businesses may have to change because it would be seen as an infringement on that intellectual property and potentially an unfair business practice.
Delta Air Lines and Delta Faucet
To see how this works, just consider that there is a company called Delta Air Lines. They operate all over the United States. There’s another company called Delta Faucet. You can find them in many major big box stores and in homes and commercial properties all over the country.
In short, these are two major companies that most people have either heard of or encountered at some point. And yet they both share the same name – Delta. This is possible because they operate in such vastly different industries that none of the consumers who are looking for one company are going to be confused when they find the other one.
On a more local scale, you may also want to think about geography and how physically close the two businesses are. Delta Air Lines and Delta Faucet are massive businesses, but smaller local businesses may not have to worry as much. If there’s a midsize business in another state with the same name, once again, consumers are not going to be confused.
All that said, this can get rather complex, and you need to know what legal options you have to protect your business.