Your business name is among the features that set your business apart from the competition. It forms the first impression on your customers and can affect your sales and reputation. So, the business name should be unique to your company, and customers should be able to associate it with your company only.
What happens if another business opens under the same business name as yours? It can be shocking to find out, and you would want to know what you can do and if you can change the situation. Kendal Law Group PC, Business attorneys in Michigan can guide you on how to remedy the situation.
How Do I Find Out if Another Business is Using My Name?
Before you can determine if another entity’s business name matches yours, consider the following:
Have Your Trademarked Your Business Name?
Registering a trademark or service mark for your business is one of the most reliable methods of protecting your business name. It protects your company’s identity and bars anyone from using similar words, phrases, or symbols to sell their goods or services.
While trademarking a name just by using offers little protection, registering the trademark provides a strong defense of your brand.
Is Your Business Name Registered?
Registering a business name can help you ward off would-be competitors who want to use the same business name. Since people often use the same search process when looking up a potential business name, registering it shows that the name is already taken and will prevent others from using it.
Is the Name the Same or Similar?
If you have not registered or trademarked your business name, you may still have enforceable rights toward it, but it is far from ideal. The other company’s name doesn’t have to be identical to charge infringement, but you need more than similarity to win your case.
That’s to say that you must show proof that your business and the other company sharing the name have closely similar or related business activities, and the name causes confusion among customers.
Where Can I Check if Another Business is Registered in My Name?
You can search on various platforms to find out if another business is registered in your name.
Check the Michigan State Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Website
On this website, visit the State Business Name Database page and use the “search by entity name” field to enter your business name and search. The results will help you determine if the business name is used elsewhere. It shows a list of all names registered with the state secretary as limited liability companies, for-profit, partnerships, or non-profit corporations in Michigan.
Contact the County Clerk
If the above procedure doesn’t yield any results, you can contact the country clerk’s office or visit its website. In most cases, sole proprietorships must be registered with the county clerk’s office.
Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Website
You can freely search all United States registered trademarks on the USPTO website. Most business entities and individuals take steps to protect their business names by registering a trademark.
If you establish that a different business entity is registered in your business name, you can engage the help of Kendal Law Group PC in Bloomfield Hills to speak to an experienced trademarks lawyer for legal counsel on how to proceed.
What Should I Do If Another Business is Claiming to Have Used My Business Name First?
Many small businesses don’t register their trademarks with the USPTO because they don’t want to incur the associated fees. If you did not register a trademark for your business name, you might discover another business uses the same name but hasn’t registered for it. What can you do in this case?
Unfortunately, without a registered trademark you have a much harder case with a lower chance of success. You would have to demonstrate superior rights to a name against the other company including showing your use predated their use and has continued during their use of the name.
Having a registered trademark however provides you with a much stronger case and is preferred over a non-registered mark for many reasons.
What Steps Can I Take Against Someone for Using My Business Name?
If you determine that someone is using your business name, Kendal Law Group, Bloomfield Hills trademarks lawyers can advise you on the legal options, which may include:
Issuing a Cease-and-Desist Letter
If you don’t want another business to use your name, your trademark attorney in Bloomfield Hills, MI, can issue a cease-and-desist letter to the other company to stop using your brand.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit
Your legal team can help you file a lawsuit and show you have used the trademark in commerce. They can also help you prove how the use of the name by the defendant infringes on your business. Besides, they can show how it may affect your business by confusing your customers about the association between your business and other entity using the same name.
If the court rules in your favor, it will likely provide an injunctive remedy, instructing the other party to stop using the name. You may also recover damages for any monetary losses incurred due to the infringement. If you have a federal registered trademark, you can also potentially win statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
Legal Guidance Helping You Protect Your Business
To prevent another company from using your business name, ensure you register it as a trademark to show that it is already claimed. However, you may still find out that another business is using your business name. The legal action to take depends on various factors, and a skilled Michigan business attorney can help you evaluate the situation and advise accordingly.
Our law firm has a legal team to help you resolve business disputes through negotiation or mediation. If any business issue must go to court, we can provide the legal representation you need to enhance the case’s outcome. We believe in putting our skills and experience to work to help clients get the results they deserve. Contact us to schedule a FREE in-depth evaluation.