Myths of IP – Part 2 – Company Name Registration

Setting up a new company is an exciting time, and one of the fun, yet challenging, parts is coming up with a name.

This is a two-part myth – that being able to register your company name means you are safe to use it, and that registration of your company name gives you the right to stop others using a similar name.

The role of the Companies Office is to register companies.  They cannot give you any legal advice about whether your chosen name is either legal or sensible to use.  There are very few restrictions on the choice of company name, and the Companies Office will not conduct a clearance check for you.

Registering a company name does not magically give you legal rights to it.  Once you start using a name, you acquire rights based on the extent and value of your reputation, which can be enforced in COURT by filing evidence of the level of recognition of your brand (such as survey evidence).

The good news is there are mechanisms to provide certainty and security – these involve the trade mark register.  Companies can register elements of their brand identity – such as their name – in connection with the goods or services they provide.  This protection actually extends further, to any similar mark used in a similar business.

When you decide on a new company name, you should:

  1. Conduct your own internet search to make sure your name is not going to be confused with any competitors using a similar name – they have a reputation they can enforce.
  1. Instruct a Registered Patent Attorney to check the Trade Mark Register for any potential conflicts, and advise you if there may be a legal risk. This may typically cost $200-$700+GST (depending on what they find and need to advise you about).
  1. Consider protecting your own name through trade mark registration. A registered trade mark is easier (and cheaper) to enforce than relying on reputation, if your competitors start using something similar.  Although you can do it yourself, a specialist IP Lawyer or Registered Patent Attorney will help tailor your protection for ease of enforcement and commercial value.

This article is part of a series of short items by our Intellectual Property specialist Virginia Nichols.  This is general information, not legal advice.  Contact us for specific tailored advice relating to your situation.