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Can you start a business with a similar name to another company?

If you’re looking to start a business, you want to make sure that you do things the right way. You don’t want to accidentally violate anyone else’s rights or do something illegal that is going to compromise the launch of your company.

As such, you might be concerned if you find out that there’s already a company using the same name or a very similar name. Does this make it their intellectual property? If so, does that mean that you can’t use the same name?

Three areas to consider

You can sometimes use a similar name to another business if it will not create consumer confusion. There are three main things to keep in mind.

First, the businesses may operate in completely different spaces or industries. Say that you’re starting an investment firm and the other business is a restaurant chain. There won’t be consumer confusion, so similar names may be permitted.

That being said, the second thing to think about is if it is a nationally recognized brand. You can’t simply use the name of a major company – like Walmart or Microsoft – just because they are headquartered in a different state or working in a different industry.

Speaking of companies operating in different states, the third thing to look at is the geographical location. There are some cases in which businesses with similar names can’t operate near one another, but it may be permitted if they are far enough apart that there wouldn’t be consumer confusion. Just because there’s another small business on the other side of the country with a similar name doesn’t always mean it will be prohibited for your business.

With all this in mind, it is very important not to infringe on another company’s rights when starting your own business. Be sure you are well aware of exactly what steps you need to take.