Lesson 3: the pros and cons of using your own name as a business name

Written by Sonal Moore, Moore + Moore

Lesson 1 was about choosing the right name for your business. What I didn’t have time to mention but am often asked is “What if I just use my own name?” It is definitely an easy option at the beginning of a business as it doesn’t require much creative input at all.

business nameThe pros – perhaps one of the biggest reasons people want to use their own name is that they don’t have to register it with ASIC. Another advantage is that many businesses start off by word of mouth or with low budget advertising. It can often be easier to remember someone’s name than an impersonal business name. Finally, most of you who read this blog and are starting or have started a business will be doing it on your own and possibly from home. You will be the only person answering the phone and all inquiries will come straight to you.

The cons – the best way of protecting a business name is to register it as a trade mark but a trade mark needs to be capable of distinguishing your goods or services from those of other traders. Registering a name is difficult and you may have to supply evidence of use of the name to show it has become distinctive. Plus, there can be difficulties if someone else has the same or similar name and uses it for the same or similar goods or services. Thinking even further ahead, your business name will become a valuable asset and one day you might decide to sell your business. So, do you really want someone else using your name? Worse still, what if you sell the name with the business and then want to start up a new business under your own name?

Some real life situations

In 2010, Collette Dinnigan, the famous fashion designer, sued Colette Hayman of Colette Accessories for use of the “Colette” name. Hayman countered by trying to remove some of Dinnigan’s trade marks and it all ended up in a big, expensive, legal battle. The parties ultimately settled, each being able to use their own name, but it isn’t an ideal situation for either one.

business nameThen, just recently, Bob Jane, the Australian former race car driver, and founder of Bob Jane T-Marts was held in contempt of court for using his own name in relation to a new tyre business. Some years before, he had left the family business and his children had obtained a court order to stop him using his own name because it infringed their BOB JANE trade mark. The marks used by the family even have Bob Jane’s face on them!

business nameBut you really want to use your name? Then do it but at least you know the risks. Also, consider registering your signature as a trade mark with or without a logo like .

 

 

Sonal Moore of Moore+Moore IP is a mother of two almost grown up daughters and has been advising in the intellectual property area for 30 years. Her firm has no website (because there are not enough hours in the day) but you can find her on LinkedIn or at smoore@mmip.com.au. She is passionate about helping start-up businesses navigate the world of copyright, trade marks, patents, terms and conditions and the Australian Consumer Law.

 

Superbrands image courtesy of endcy / www.freedigitalphotos.net

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