Is It Infringement If Someone Uses My Company's Name for a Different Business?

Question

While doing an Internet search, I found that another company is using the same name as my company's name. I don't have a federally registered trademark, but I have used the same company name for years. My company, Star Services, is a construction firm, providing general general contracting services to homeowners in Delaware. The other company, also Star Services, sells telescopes in Alaska.

I've spent a lot of time and money on branding my company's name, and it bothers me that they stole it. Is this trademark infringement?

Answer

Companies' names are important. They serve as important marketing devices and statements of identity. Many companies, large and small, invest lots of time and money into marketing their names so that customers recognize and remember that name, even if the companies do not register their trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The idea that another company is using "your" name can be deeply frustrating.

As a general rule, trademarks do not infringe one another if the underlying products or services of the two companies do not compete and are not distributed in the same trade channels. One of the primary aims of trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion. We do not want to allow two bakeries with the same name and logo to exist across the street from one another, since customers will not know which products come from which bakery.

However, if the two products are not related to one another and not likely to cause consumer confusion, then trademark law will not prevent the two companies from using the same name. Put differently, if the same name is registered in different trademark classes, this does not give rise to an infringement claim.

Here, you run a construction business in Delaware and the "other" Star Services sells telescopes in Alaska. No consumer is likely to be confused as to which is which. You each sell different products in different markets to different types of customers. Moreover, they sell products, whereas you sell services.

In short, both entities can coexist peacefully without any serious degree of consumer confusion. It would be difficult for you to show any actual damages as a result of the "other" Star Services.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
FEATURED LISTINGS FROM NOLO
Swipe to view more
NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP ?

Talk to a Intellectual Property attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you