Can 2 Companies Have the Same Name in Different Countries?
So, you’re all set to register your new company name with Companies House then discover that another company in another country is already using that name. Is it time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new company name?
Two companies can have the same name in different countries depending on several factors, including whether they are in the same industry and where each of them intends to do business.
Read on to learn under what conditions two companies in different countries can register under the same name and how to protect your company name from being used by others.
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Two Companies in Different Countries Can Sometimes Have the Same Name
When you have your heart set on a company name and find out that another company in another country is already using that name, you may be disappointed and think you have to scrap your idea and pick another name. That isn’t necessarily the case though.
If you decide you want a company name that is completely unique to you all around the world, you may prefer to brainstorm for another name. But if you can’t bear the thought of giving up on your first choice, you may have some options.
Several things to consider before throwing in the towel on your first-choice company name:
- Has the other company registered their name with their country? If the other company has not registered their name, then you should have no conflict. Feel free to use your chosen company name and also register it as a trademark for extra protection.
- Is your company part of the same industry as the other company? When two companies are part of the same industry, it is not recommended that they use the same name or even similar names. This can lead to confusion among customers and you wouldn’t want potential customers getting directed to your competitor’s website.
- Is the other company conducting business in your country or are you intending to conduct business in their country? If either company is going to conduct business in their competitor’s country, it will not be possible for them to both register under the same company name.
British and European Trademark Attorney Julia House recommends keeping the acronym DoCiT in mind when starting a business. This stands for domain, company, and trademark. Each of these are essential to register for your company’s protection so you can avoid possible legal issues.
Check for Company Name Availability First
One key component of selecting a company name is to do some research on the name you would like to use.
The following action steps can help you determine if your preferred company name is available to you:
- Perform a search for your company name in your country. Once you have some ideas for your company name, go ahead and run them through the Companies House company name availability checker. This online tool can help you determine whether your preferred company name has already been registered to another business in the UK.
- If you want to do business in other countries, search for your company name in those countries. If it turns out there is no company registered under the same name in your country, the next step would be to perform a search for your company name among any other countries you plan to conduct business in.
- If the other company has registered their name with their country- You may want to consider selecting another name. You will not be able to register to do business in their country under that same name.
If the other company has not registered their name with their country then you may want to swoop in and register your company name there before there’s a chance for any conflict. The first company to register with the name will have priority over it.
Consider Registering Your Company Name as a Trademark
Having your company name registered as a trademark can provide you with additional protection from other businesses using the same name.
While you’re in the process of choosing a company name, you should also consider a trademark:
- Look at what makes sense to trademark for your business. It can be your company name, your logo, or your product name.
- Use the Intellectual Property Office’s trademark search tool to find out if any other UK companies have already trademarked your name of choice, as well as any other items you wish to trademark.
- Registering a trademark provides you with more rights to protect your investment. If another company were to register the same or a similar company name or domain as yours, you would have grounds for legal action for trademark infringement. Even if they incorporated their company before you registered the trademark, you would have priority as the owner of the trademark.
Create an Online Presence for Your Company
Often, when a new company is deciding on a name, they will perform a basic online search to see if anything pops up with the same name. Having another business of the same name pop up is usually enough of a deterrent from the company pressing forward with that name.
To prevent using the same name as another company or having another company try to use the same name as you:
- Create social media accounts for your company - You don’t have to make an account on every social media platform unless you genuinely intend to be active on all of them. One or two platforms is usually adequate to make your company visible.
- Create a business website - You’ll definitely want to create a website for your business and purchase your preferred domain name so others cannot use it. Some businesses have no website or only use a Facebook page. There is a debate about whether to use a Facebook business page instead of a website, but there are clearly some benefits to having both.
- List your company with online business directories - Taking advantage of free listings on business directories is another way to stake your claim on your company name by letting others know it’s in use.
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Famous Company Name Conflicts in Other Countries
Here are some examples of how certain companies chose to handle potential issues with identical or similar company names in other countries.
- American discount retailer T.J. Maxx chose to operate under the name T.K. Maxx in Europe to avoid confusion with the British competitor T.J. Hughes.
- Apple Computer was sued by Apple Corps, the owner of the Beatles’ record label Apple Records. It was determined that the former could continue using the name if they did not enter the music industry.
Of course, the second issue was resurrected when Apple Computer changed to Apple Inc and launched iTunes. Another settlement had to be reached at that point, but it just goes to show—that even giants need to respect trademarks.
Same Name as Another Company in Another Country? Not the Best Idea
While there are some conditions that will allow two companies in different countries operate under the same name, it isn’t necessarily a good idea to do so. If you ever decide to do business in another country and your company name is already in use there, you will have to use a different name there, which could be inconvenient.
On the other hand, if that company decides to do business in your country and you haven’t registered a trademark for your business name, they could beat you to the punch. You would then be the one having to rebrand. For the sake of your company’s investment and reputation, choose a unique name, then secure a domain, and register your company name and trademark.