Guidelines for naming companies

Company names are part of the company’s intellectual property.  They are increasingly being defended.  Legal disputes over company names have shot up by 43% this year, says Sweet & Maxwell, the legal information provider.

Some smaller companies are piggy packing on the success of larger companies.  This is particularly so for IT companies such as Intel.  Intel and others are going to the Company Names Tribunal to defend their names.

Use your own name if you wish: it may be McDonalds Fish and Chip Bar because your family is McDonalds.  But do not trade on the name of another company.

These disputes are some which have been won by the original owners:

  • Quantum of solace: objected by the owners of the James Bond copyright;
  • Kit Kat UK Limited: objected to by Nestle; and
  • BMW Windows Ltd: objected to by BMW.

Large corporations can be heavy handed in the defence of their name: as with the use of the term Mini which the owners objected to being used by garages specialising in that car. 

The guidelines are:

  • Choose a name suitable to you;
  • Do not create a confusion with another name in the same or a similar area; and
  • Defend your own name, it’s your property.

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