I have found a new registered company with the same name as me, what can I do?

Written by Thomas Staveley | September 30, 2022

Intellectual Property

Introduction 

Companies House is a public register which is freely accessible for anyone to search.  If one day you find that a new company has registered itself as the same name or something highly similar to your company, you may have a cause of action to have this company name changed.  This blog will focus on the Company Names Tribunal rather than any other possible actions such as trade mark infringement.  

What is the Company Names Tribunal?  

The Company Names Tribunal is a team of 9 based in Newport who deal with complaints regarding company names which have been registered in the UK for the purpose of stopping a third party with a legitimate interest in the name from registering it.  An example of this might be where a third party registers several variations of the name of a better-known company in the hope that this better-known company will then purchase the registrations.  This would allow the better-known company to pursue a complaint at the Company Names Tribunal.   

Possible Defences  

However, it is important to know there are several defences that a party can rely on which are outlined below: 

  • That the name was registered before the start of the activities on which the applicant relies to show it has goodwill/reputation; 
  • That the company is operating under the name or is planning to do so and has incurred substantial start-up costs, or was operating under the name but is now dormant; 
  • That the name was registered in the ordinary course of a company formation business and the company name is available for sale to the applicant on the standard terms of that business (an ‘off the shelf company’); 
  • That the name was adopted in good faith; 
  • That the interests of the applicant are not adversely affected to any significant extent.  

If the third party can not show any of the above, the application will succeed at the Company Names Tribunal.  However, if the company has begun trading under the company name, this is an automatic defence and other course of action may need to be considered such as trade mark infringement or passing off.   

Timescales and Costs  

In comparison to other forms of proceedings, a complaint brought at the Company Names Tribunal is rather inexpensive and can be an effective course of action.  However, once an application is filed at the Tribunal, it is expected you would receive a decision within 15 months.  

If you require assistance with a Company Names Tribunal complaint or further advice regarding trade mark infringement and passing off, we can certainly help. Feel free to contact one of our expert solicitors on info@briffa.com.    

Written by Tom Staveley – Solicitor

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