So here’s a sticky situation that is occurring more and more often:
A newcomer to the industry enters the scene and proudly announces her new business name and tagline to the world. Problem is, it is identical or nearly identical to the business name and/or tagline of an established colleague.
Your business name and tagline is part of your brand identity, which is an important and valuable intellectual asset.
It helps creates a unique and distinctive identity of your business in the marketplace. It helps facilitate brand awareness, differentiation and word-of mouth advertising for your business.
When someone copies your name or tagline or uses a derivative, it creates confusion and unfair competition.
While registering your tradename affords you the greatest legal rights and recourse, it is not required and it’s not the only way to exercise your rights and protect your turf. There are common law protections as well that protect intellectual property owners.
The law does require, however, that you actively protect your trade name (business name), trademarks, servicemarks, etc., (e.g., taglines) or you lose the rights to lay claim to them.
What that means is you must go after those who infringe upon your business name, tagline and other trademark property or you lose right to them. And if you are serious about your business (it’s your livelihood after all), that’s not something you take lightly. It, therefore, becomes necessary for you to keep a vigilant eye open for infringements of this nature. The eyes and ears of your colleagues are often very helpful in this effort.
Which also means you do not want to be the newcomer who is doing the infringing on someone else’s tradename and/or other intellectual property. You can be easily sued and held liable and ordered to pay thousands of dollars, on top of having to start all over from scratch.
Do you really have the time, money, energy and resources to fight a costly legal battle in another state or even country with someone who has every right to go after you and protect their intellectual property and very important business interests? And if you don’t have the money to defend yourself, they can win by default judgment.
Stealing from others and engaging in the unethical practice of infringing on the tradename/trademark/intellectual property of others is a no-win situation.
But forget legalities for the moment.
Let’s look at this from a moral and ethical standpoint.
Sometimes this is difficult, but it becomes less so when you first ask yourself the question: “How would I feel if this happened to me.”
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?
- Would you be upset if someone new to the industry started using your business name? Why or why not?
- If you saw someone new using a colleague’s business name, tagline/slogan or other brand identity, would you say something to that newcomer? Why or why not?
- Would you let a colleague know if you saw someone new using their established business name, etc., a close enough derivative of it to be confusing? Why or why not?