Company Name Registration – A new weapon against the opportunist

In Brief: From 1 October 2008, a new procedure for objecting to the “opportunistic” registration of a company name at Companies House was introduced. Previously, only the Secretary of State could direct a company to change its name because it was “too like” another. This new route of attack is a welcome addition to a brand owner’s armoury. Comment: The new procedure is designed to prevent “opportunistic” company name registrations, not coincidental ones that concern brand owners. In order to object against these, brand owners will still have to rely on registered and/or unregistered Trade Mark rights under the laws of Trade Mark Infringement and Passing Off respectively. Albright Patents strongly urge that Trade Marks are protected via Trade Mark Registration at the outset and that company name watches are put in place to monitor the incorporation of company names. Prompt robust action is essential to protect your Trade Mark or brand name and deter others from straying onto your market place and “freeriding” on the back of your good name. The Law: Section 69 of the Companies Act 2006, permits any person or company (the applicant) to object to a company’s registered name on the grounds that: • • It is the same as a name associated with the applicant in which he has goodwill; or It is sufficiently similar to such a name that its use in the United Kingdom would be likely to mislead by suggesting a connection between the company and the applicant.

Certain defences are available to the respondent, for example, that the name was registered before the commencement of the activities on which the applicant relies to show goodwill or that the name was registered in the ordinary course of a company formation business and the company is available for sale to the applicant on the standard terms of that business. However, the respondent will not be able to take advantage of a defence if the applicant shows that the main purpose of the respondent’s company name registration was to obtain money (or other consideration) from the applicant or prevent him from registering the name. Procedure: An objection should be made to the Company Names Adjudicator, who will, if upheld, direct that the name be changed. For more information or assistance with your Patent, Trade Mark or Design requirements, please do contact us.

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