What’s in a Name?

 In Business Law

Deciding on a name for your business can be a fun, creative experience, but the process can be challenging at the same time. Why is that so?

The law provides that you cannot use a name which is confusing with that of another business.  The word confusing here meaning that a person looking for services or goods might mistake your company for another existing business offering the same or similar products or services. The classic example is someone wanting to open a restaurant chain and call it “McDonald’s.” Clearly, the use of that name would be open to challenge. In addition, upon your name being questioned, there can be a considerable expense associated with rebranding your business. There is also a potential loss of market share with a name change.

How do you prevent that from happening? There is a name registry database that we can search (and must search if it forms part of the name of a corporation) when you, as a client, approach us with a name you wish to use. The search we complete will result in a list of other uses of that name and any other similar names. We then review that list with you.  Our review will include looking at the location of the use of the other name, the kind of good or service that is being marketed, and comparing that with your intended use of the name. We will then advise you as to whether we think that your use of the name has a risk of exposing you to liability.

The search we do is not necessarily foolproof, however.   We will suggest that, in addition, you complete an internet search to find other uses of that name that might not be registered. We will review with you any other names that this search turns up. There are also other potential searches that are available to you and us to assist you with a name choice.

In the end, our focus in advising you is to do our best to ensure that the name you choose for your business will be a safe one to use for the entire life cycle of the business.

This blog post was written by Ted Mann, a Partner in the Wills and EstatesReal EstateBusiness and Bankruptcy teams.    He can be reached at 613-369-0368 or at ted.mann@mannlawyers.com.

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