At some point in your life, you’ve probably come across a business with a similar or almost identical name to another business you know. Your initial thought might’ve been that they’re related or a chain, but it turns out they’re in completely different industries and have nothing to do with each other. Before the internet, two similarly-named businesses might’ve never known about each other. Now, with the ease of searching for a business online, there’s a much higher chance that you find another business whose name is eerily similar to yours.
How is this allowed, if it even is, and if so, how does it work? This situation can cause confusion and even legal issues, but the trademark and intellectual property attorneys at Emerson Thomson Bennett can explain what laws allow for it.
Similar Business Names: A Tale of Coincidence or Inspiration
Believe it or not, having similar business names is more common than you think. It’s not just a result of mere coincidence – sometimes businesses intentionally choose similar names as a marketing strategy.
This is especially true for businesses that want to ride on the success and popularity of a well-known brand. Most businesses will send a cease-and-desist before eventually suing another business. Even then, they may not be able to do anything if the name is based on an owner’s name and it’s a different enough industry.
The Role of Trademarks and Intellectual Property Law
But how do these businesses get away with using similar names without facing any legal repercussions? Well, it all boils down to trademarks and U.S. intellectual property law.
A trademark is a unique name, symbol, or logo that distinguishes a business or product from others in the market. It serves as a legal protection for businesses to prevent others from using similar names and causing confusion among consumers. However, trademarks are only limited to specific industries and categories.
For example, there are multiple companies with the name “Apple”, but they operate in different industries – one being technology (Apple Inc.) and the other being a record label (Apple Records). Not only that, a name like “Apple” is based on a fruit. It’s a word that cannot be wholly owned by one business.
Instead, businesses have to make sure that they don’t infringe on each other’s trademarked categories to coexist with similar names.
Examples of Similar Business Names
Now that we know the role of trademarks and intellectual property law, let’s look at some real-life examples of businesses with similar names. These may surprise you!
- Domino’s Pizza, the international pizza chain, shares a name with Domino’s Farms Corporation, a Michigan-based real estate company, and a magazine brand also named Domino.
- Delta Airlines, the famous airline company, shares a name with Delta Faucet Company, another Michigan-based company that manufactures plumbing materials.
- Famous soap and beauty products brand Dove shares a name with the popular Dove Chocolate.
As you can see, these businesses have coexisted peacefully with similar names because they operate in different industries. So, the next time you come across two businesses with identical or almost identical names, they likely have nothing in common besides that, or else they couldn’t keep their name.
Contact the Trademark Litigation Attorneys at ETB Law For Help
Having similar business names is not uncommon and can happen for a variety of reasons. As long as businesses follow trademark laws and don’t infringe on each other’s categories, they can coexist and thrive with similar names.
If there’s a similarly-named business that’s both operating in your market area and offers similar services to you, you may have a problem. Trademark law isn’t simple and has many stipulations and exceptions that may catch you off guard. To learn whether you can and/or should take legal action against a business you feel is infringing on your trademarks, contact the attorneys at ETB Law today.