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When can another company have the same name as your company?

Oct 12, 2021 | Copyright & Trademark Litigation and Applications

As a business owner, you know the value of your company name. It’s the first step in branding your business, and it’s very important that customers know the name, recognize the logo and do not get confused about whether or not a company is connected to yours. As such, the business name needs to be unique. 

That said, you’ve surely seen examples of two companies with similar names, especially when the names are fairly generic. For instance, there is an “Icon Industries” in North Carolina and another in Michigan. There is yet another in Rancho Cordova, California. How is it that all of these companies can have the same name?

They are in different states

As you can see from the examples above, the first way that this is allowed is when the companies are in different states, especially if they essentially just do business in the local area. Companies that are based in certain states but that operate all over the country or all over the world — Apple, for instance — can still keep other companies from using their names. 

The second thing to consider is whether or not the names can cause consumer confusion. How similar are the industries they operate in? A company that sells hydraulic presses is very different than a staffing agency, which is also very different than a fast-food chain. If companies in all three areas had the same name, there would be little chance of consumer confusion, so the similarities may be permitted. 

What if a dispute arises?

If you do find yourself in a dispute over copyright or trademark infringement, or the use of an identical business name, be sure you know what legal options you have.