Dear Aunty B,
I started my retail business three years ago and came up with a great catchy name. Because I wanted to tick all the right boxes, I got my lawyer to do all the checking and then register my company name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
We have grown really fast and are about to launch into other states. But I was shocked to find there is a company operating in Perth with the same name!
When I asked my lawyer to sue them he told me that registering with ASIC and the state government gives us no legal protection.
But it gets worse. This company only started a year ago, but they have trademarked our name!
So now we could have legal action taken against us by these name thieves.
And even worse than that, the best my lawyer can do is to suggest we come up with a new name and get a trademark for that.
What a nightmare! Is there anything I can do?
Welcome to the wacky world of business names.
Many business owners make the same mistake as you. And why shouldn’t they? You register a name with the authorities and most right-thinking homo sapiens would then assume it belonged to them and that no one else could use it.
But Dylan, business name registration does not stop others using your business name.
You have to get a trademark for the name. That gives you a strong legal position to prevent others from copying you.
But I also think it is too early to give up at this point. You can appeal. Call IP Australia and seek some advice.
I would also sack your lawyer. You need a lawyer who is going to be a bit more proactive. You should also look for a lawyer that specialises in IP. Alternatively you can battle your way through on your own, using information available online to find out your rights. I know entrepreneurs who have done this and it has saved them lawyer’s fees, but I am sure if you can afford it your time would be better spent marketing and selling.
So Dylan, it’s too soon to walk away!
Your Aunty B.