You could phone me and ask me to stop using it.
You could send me an email.
You could even send me a letter.
But what will really give your call, email or letter some teeth? What will make me sit up in my chair and take notice of your perfectly reasonable request for me to stop using your name without permission?
After all, it’s your name. You chose it, you’ve built a solid reputation around it and people have come to associate that name with the high quality goods or services that you’re offering. But that’s now in jeopardy because I’ve set up a business with an alarmingly similar name to yours that is starting to cause confusion amongst your customer’s.
Questions such as ‘have you expanded?’ ‘I didn’t realise you were based in X too?’ ‘I wasn’t sure which link to click when I searched for you on Google’ are becoming more and more frequent, much to your frustration.
Enter the world of trade mark law – the secret ingredient to your phone call, email or letter that will give it some teeth…the sharpness of which will all depend on whether you have a registered or unregistered trade mark.
Put simply, registered trade marks will give you the legal exclusivity to your name. It will give you the statutory right to stop me from using your name without permission. It will provide me with clear evidence of the date you registered your trade mark, what your trade mark is for and exactly what areas it covers. Quote me this and I’ll probably take you seriously.
If you haven’t got a registered trade mark for your name, it’s not bad news just yet. It means that instead of being able to point me in the direction of your statutory right to stop me from using your name without your permission, you need to demonstrate that I’m ‘passing off’ your name. To do so, you’ll need to prove when you first started using the name, the goodwill you have in the name and the financial damage I’ve caused you by using your name. A much lengthier process and sadly somewhat more challenging to succeed with and unlikely to make me sit up in my chair quite as fast.
So in summary, to stop me from using your name – make sure you’ve trade marked it. Click here to read more about how to register a trade mark.
By Ryan Lisk