You left your job to start your own company. You spent months working on the branding, figuring out the name and getting everything set up.
Then, just a few weeks before launch, you Googled your own company name. What you found is that there is another company that already has the exact same name. Are they going to start a legal dispute if you use it, claiming that you’re infringing on their intellectual property? Or is it permissible for two businesses to have the same name?
The goal is to limit consumer confusion
This can go either direction, but the thing to remember is that the government does not want to allow consumer confusion. Business names are protected so that consumers aren’t tricked into thinking that they’re shopping from a business that they’re not actually at.
This means that two businesses can have the same or similar names in some situations. The first is if the business is in another state. For smaller businesses that don’t have national audiences, you may be able to have the same name as one that is in a vastly different geographical location. It is unlikely and perhaps even impossible for consumers to be confused about the two.
Another reason this is allowed is if you work in very different industries. Maybe you’re starting an investment firm, but the other company is focused on providing lawn care services. The customer base that you’re trying to reach is not the same at all and no one is going to be confused about which company to turn to for their needs.
That being said, you may find yourself in a legal dispute that you didn’t see coming. If you do, be sure you are well aware of all of your legal options to protect the business that you’ve built.