New Laws to Help Brand Owners

On 1 October 2008, this part of the Companies Act 2006 will come in to force allowing brand owners to stop others from registering their brands as company names by means of an adjudicator who will be empowered to hear the cases and decide whether a company name is too similar to someone else’s brand name.

The company name adjudicators, based at the UK Intellectual Property Office in Newport, South Wales are there to hear cases of opportunistic company name registrations. Opportunistic company name registrations occur when someone registers one or more variations of the name of a well known company in order to get the latter company to buy the registration.

Some important considerations. The company names adjudicator cannot deal with cases where registrations are too similar to, or too like a company name, but where there is no suspected opportunism behind the given registration. The reason for this is there is already a procedure in place for this through the registrar at Companies House and in addition through the courts for an action under the law of passing off.

Under the Companies Act 2006 therefore the following defences are available to any registrant:

(a) that the name was registered before the start of the activities on which the applicant relies to show it has goodwill/reputation or

(b) 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 or

(c) 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’) or

(d) that the name was adopted in good faith or

(e) that the interests of the applicant are not adversely affected to any significant extent.

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