This question sounds simple, but the answer is not simple. Whether you can stop another business from using your existing business name depends on a variety of factors, but boils down to who has the legal right to use the name.
Business naming conventions are regulated by Texas law, so it is important to comply with the regulations from the beginning. If you don’t, you may find yourself backpedaling when you learn someone else is using the same business name. This is particularly true if you operate as a sole proprietor and your business is not registered with the Texas Secretary of State.
Isn’t there a law against copying a business name?
Yes. The Texas Business Organizations Code says a new business can’t use a name which is the same or deceptively similar to an existing Texas business. Business names reserved with the Secretary of State are also off limits. Likewise, new businesses can’t use the name of a business from another state, known as a foreign business, if the foreign business is required to file reports in Texas. (There are many reasons why foreign businesses must file reports in Texas. We’ll discuss those in another article.)
Nonetheless, the fact that something is against the law won’t necessarily keep it from happening. In this case, if it does happen, it’s up to you to stop it.
I thought my business name was protected by trademark
This may be the case, but you’ll have to prove your trademark existed before the new business began operating. One question is which business began operating first. The proof is easy if your trademark is registered. Non-registered trademarks are generally no less valid, but much more difficult to prove.
Is your business name published anywhere, such as in advertisements or on the internet? Do you have a website for the business? These are the kinds of questions your attorney will ask when preparing to prove your trademark in court.
Is there a legal way for businesses to use the same name?
It is possible, but only legally permissible if the first business in existence consents in writing to the new business using the same or a very similar name. This is common where a business owner plans to open a second location, but wants to keep the books and records of the two locations separate.
Start with a knowledgeable business litigation attorney
An experienced business litigation attorney is an invaluable asset for your business. Our Bryan-College Station, Texas business law attorneys guide new and established entrepreneurs through legal matters with confidence and skill. Make sure you have an attorney on your side who is prepared to protect your business interests. Call us at Peterson Law Group to make an appointment at 979-703-7014 or fill out our online contact form.