Why Uber forced this Gold Coast business to change its name

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A delivery business on the Gold Coast has been forced to change its name after receiving legal threats from ridesharing giant Uber.

Manne Padowitz, general manager of delivery startup Muber told Business News Australia he was forced to change the name of his company after Uber contacted him about the similarities between the businesses.

Read more: Spanish retail giant Zara forces Canberra small business into name change

However, Padowitz said choosing to call his startup name Muber was a strategic choice and was intended to draw a link between Uber and his business, which delivers food, alcohol, commercial and private goods directly to homes around the Gold Coast.

“Originally the name Muber made sense because it gave the public an idea of the concept of the app,” he said.

“Uber is not a unique name; it is not a unique word. The only reason Uber wanted us to change the name was because we adopt a similar business practice they do in terms of the method of operation,” he said.

Padowitz said his business is aimed at customers who order taxis or Uber to pick up food or alcohol, with Mobey drivers picking up and delivering the items for customers to save them half the fare.

After rebranding, Mobey launched their app last month.

Drivers are paid 80% of the delivery fee, but similar to Uber, they use their own vehicles and pick their own hours.

Uber is not yet legal in Queensland, with premier Annastacia Palaszczuk telling taxi drivers on Sunday the government will be releasing a comprehensive strategy to deal with issues around ridesharing services in August, according to SBS News.

Narissa Corrigan, principal at Ampersand Legal, which offers marketing, franchising, intellectual property and commercial law advice, told SmartCompany choosing a similar name to a competitor generally is not a wise move.

“Firstly business can’t come up with a name that is similar to another business because it could well be misleading or deceptive or had potential to be misleading or deceptive,” she says.

“Secondly often businesses will have their name protected by a trademark, hopefully registered but sometimes unregistered or common law trademarked.”

Corrigan says even when businesses that use a common dictionary word – like “uber” –develop a reputation for an industry, they can still claim infringement if the reputation could be damaged by similarly named businesses.

Trademarks can be registered or unregistered but registering early is an important move for SMEs, says Corrigan.

“I say this time and time again it’s always best to use a trademark,” she says.

“If people don’t register their trademarks they have rights still in the unregistered marks, but it’s a little bit trickier for them to prove that someone has infringed that mark.”

The potential legal costs for alleged deceptive conduct or trademark infringement in a dispute between businesses could be very expensive, says Corrigan. She advises SMEs to simply do their due diligence.

“Businesses wanting to come up with a new name need to do thorough research into their competitor’s names,” she says.

“It’s really easy to do some due diligence at the start so I’d recommend anyone coming up with a name do a Google search, business name and company name search and either through themselves or a lawyer, do a trademark search.”

SMEs can complete trademark searches are free through IP Australia or hire a lawyer if they are unsure of how to proceed.

“With the internet, it’s hard to hide behind these names for very long,” she says.

“The best advice I can give is to thoroughly check before launching a new brand.”

So how early into a business should a trademark application be done?

“As early on as they come up with a business name,” Corrigan says.

“Once someone decides to go ahead [with a business], apply for a trademark.”

SmartCompany contacted Uber and Mobey but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Ronelle Richards is the newest journalist on the SmartCompany team. She is currently studying a Masters of Journalism at The University of Melbourne and has previously worked as a journalist and photographer in rural newspapers.

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