Picking a business name
Thread poster: Liz Preston
Liz Preston
France
Sep 10, 2014

Hello everyone,

I'm looking for a business name and am lost as to what is ok and what is not. There is an intellectual property office in the country where I am going to start my activity (Switzerland) and there is a way to check that the names I like are not taken already -in this country at least, and as we all know, our business is worldwide-, but what about those which sound similar? I know I can be made to change it if a company (not even a local one, as I understood things) feels it's too close; it's bad enough if it happens, but can I also get a fine? I'm worried I'm not going to realise I'm a competitor for companies I haven't even heard of. Do you know what is ok and what is not? Is it a problem if I have the same name as a translator that works in Australia, say, and not with the same languages? Our websites are bound to have similar names except mine will end in .ch.
I'm a bit lost! Should I pick a long name so that I have a better chance to be the only one with it? But then for clients a long name is not necessarily a good name.

Thanks for your input! You've probably all been through this already...

Liz


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Darko Podnar  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 16:59
Croatian to English
+ ...
Business name Sep 10, 2014

Hi,

my recommendation would be to use a name which describes types of services you shall offer to your clients. You may then personalize it with something you like in order to be different from the competitors.

If you shall also register a web domain for your web page, please note that in this manner it shall be easier to Google and other search tools to direct potential clients to your web.


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Recep Kurt  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 18:59
Member (2011)
English to Turkish
+ ...
How about prestontranslationsdotcom? Sep 10, 2014

As yournamedotcom might have already been taken (and to avoid potential confusion) you might consider prestontranslationsdotcom...
There are already tons of translation sites with similar sounding names, so I would advise against that...

[Edited at 2014-09-10 12:35 GMT]


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:59
German to English
+ ...
Some countries have different Sep 10, 2014

regulations/guidelines in regard to what you can call your company, depending on its legal form, such as GmbH or GbR, etc. in Germany (which does have rules about this). I would inquire at the local Chamber of Commerce, a tax consultant or some other agency or authority to find out what applies to you before choosing a name. Sometimes you are not free to choose any name you like even if it isn't already "taken", and by checking first, at least you can be sure of avoiding any potential problems or conflicts before they arise.

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Liz Preston
France
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sep 10, 2014

Thanks to both of you. What if I don't want to put my personal name in the business name? For example if I want to be called (it's just an example...) "passion for words" and it's not a trademark in Switzerland but it's widely used for a lot of things around the world?

Liz


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:59
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
An officially registered company name? Sep 10, 2014

Are you officially trading under your own name, as a self-employed person? In that case, this won't be your official company name, will it? Just a trading name. As in "Liz Preston, trading as Passion for Words". It's still your own name that will be used for contracts, bank accounts etc.

I believe there are some regulations to stop near-identical company names registered in the same country offering similar products or services. But even then, when I look through the registers in France or the UK I find several very similar names in similar sectors, and identical names in different business sectors. They're clearly allowed. I have a feeling that as far as other countries are concerned, the companies must have registered in your country too for there to be a problem. I'm not 100% certain about that but I think that unless you choose a name that's very, very similar to one that's registered in your country, and/or already in use as a .com domain, then I think you're unlikely to fall foul of any laws.

But I hasten to add that I'm no lawyer.


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njweatherdon
Canada
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
agree with recep Sep 11, 2014

Why not just use your name? I don't think your client is going to be persuaded by fancy names. They need quality.

I currently operate under Nathan Translates. I have a ridiculously high brow name in mind, and I will probably shift to that name in time (I'm still playing with the website). But it (the potential new name) mostly reflects the services I offer to clients, and certainly I would never have deigned to select such a name when I was starting off.

I also run a website under myname.com. if you piece together A and B, you can find the site and use whatever parts of the design you want. It's a simple html site. I don't think my clients are paying for me to upkeep a fancy website. They want a translator and editor. They get frills. But not in the form of a fancy website or fancy business name.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:59
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Registering your name with the OHIM Sep 11, 2014

If you are going to operate in Europe or even globally, it might be a good idea to register your company name as a trademark with the OHIM. It costs some 900 euros but it gives you peace of mind.

Check: https://oami.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/

IMPORTANT WARNING: If you register the company name as a trademark, make sure you ONLY pay the OHIM via their portal. Since your request for trademark is published in the open so that others potentially affected (those who feel your new name resembles theirs too much) can have a saying, you will receive about 15 letters from fake registry companies with fake invoices. These companies try to lure you into paying them too, and call their invoice-looking documents "offers" in the small print. Beware! You do not receive any request for payment from the OHIM since you pay for the process upfront. In case of doubt, double-check with the OHIM!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Liz Sep 11, 2014

Liz Preston wrote:
I'm looking for a business name and am lost as to what is OK and what is not. There is an intellectual property office in the country where I am going to start my activity (Switzerland) and there is a way to check that the names I like are not taken already, but what about those which sound similar?


Have a look at this:
http://www.sigrun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/swissbusinessstructures_2014-03-261.jpg

If I understand correctly, you are allowed to use your own name plus a descriptive name (e.g. "Liz Preston Translations" or "Liz Preston Professional Translation Services") even if there is another Liz Preston elsewhere in Switzerland whose business is also called "Liz Preston Translations", as long as you choose the "sole proprietorship" form of business.

I'm worried I'm not going to realise I'm a competitor for companies I haven't even heard of.


Often, a country will have a list of all registered companies in that country. You can do a name search, trying various variations of your chosen name, to see if there is any company with a similar name. You may also have access to various business directories and the white/yellow pages for your country, on the internet.

Is it a problem if I have the same name as a translator that works in Australia, say, and not with the same languages?


I'm sure it won't be a problem.

Also don't forget that a business name is not the same as a trade mark. The laws that govern business names are different from the laws (and international treaties) that govern trade marks.

Our websites are bound to have similar names except mine will end in .ch.


As long as your web site is not similar-looking, I'm sure it won't be a problem.

Should I pick a long name so that I have a better chance to be the only one with it? But then for clients a long name is not necessarily a good name.


Well, there is also a difference between your actual business name and the name that you trade under (though this may depend on Swiss law). In my previous country, most businesses had weird numbered names, e.g. "Capricorn Juniper 1424" even if they trade under a different name, e.g. "Joe Soap Translations".

Perhaps it would be possible for you to use "Liz Preston Translations" as your business name but trade under a more descriptive name e.g. "Lizzy Translizzy", but that would depend on Swiss law.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Hmmm, Oami's site Sep 11, 2014

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
Check: https://oami.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/


For an official web site, they seem to use a lot of wooly language that isn't strictly accurate. For example, on their main page, they say "Your trade mark tells customers who you are", but that is not true. Your business name tells people who you are. Your trade mark simply assures customers that you made the product or that you offer the service. They also say "If you are in business, you have a trade mark", which is certainly not true either. Or am I wrong?


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