Check company names: what to look out for to avoid infringing trademark protection and naming rights. The name of a company serves as a symbol for the company and allows customers to distinguish it from others.

Check company names and avoid litigation: Any company name that does not meet certain conditions will be rejected and the company will have to choose a new name. If the name of a company is already protected as a trademark, the founders are protected.

Check company names – tips for finding the perfect name: The name of your business or company is registered in the commercial register as a company name. In addition, all notices, imprints and invoices must contain the company name. The legal form of the company is always included.

Check company names: What do you need to consider?

Company names serve to distinguish a company from its competitors and create a sense of familiarity. The legal form of the company is included in the company name, which:

  • is used on invoices,
  • is registered as a company
  • and is included in the footer of the page.

Company names must adhere to strict guidelines. An application for business registration may be rejected if it does not meet certain criteria. For example, this or a similar company name may be inadmissible if another limited liability company has already registered it.

Check company names: How can I name a company?

When choosing a company name, you can choose between the following alternatives.

  • Factual company: The company’s line of business was the inspiration for the name.
  • My own company: The owner’s name is included in the company name.
  • Fantastic company: Ownership or business sector are irrelevant to the name.
  • Different people: It is a mixture of a real and a fake company name.

The name must comply with the German Commercial Code (HGB) according to § 18 ff. The name must be unique and not misleading. Therefore, the following elements may not be included in a company name:

  • False information about size
  • Location
  • Purpose or atmosphere of a business,
  • Additional terms such as partner or co-ownership.

In addition, a comparable addition to the company name must indicate the legal form of the company.

Checking company names: finding a suitable designation

“Business identifier” is a term you may come across. “Company marks are signs which are used in the course of trade as a name, as a company or as a special identification of a business or an enterprise” ( 5 MarkenG) is the legal definition of the word.

Colloquial designations are permitted

It is permissible for the business name to be only a colloquial designation that has no connection with the legally registered business name. “Establishment name” is another term for this. Websites, marketing and branding are just a few examples of how the name is used externally.

Most people only know what the business is called, but not what it is legally called. Regardless of what name you choose for your business, the rule is that you are completely free to decide on the day-to-day operations of your business as long as you do not infringe on the rights of others.

Check company names: Observe rules and restrictions

Company names are the official names of businesses that are not yet registered in the commercial register. Small businesses, freelancers, sole proprietorships and partnerships that are not yet registered in the commercial register must create an official business name in order to be registered.

Company names and designations are subject to different rules and restrictions depending on the legal form of your company.

Registered company names in the commercial register

Company names can be used by merchants and corporations registered in the commercial register as well as by other types of companies. The name of the merchant’s company is called the company name. This means that the company name is used in all business transactions and serves to identify the company’s activities.

However, the business name is also of great commercial value as it ensures that the business is different and unique from its competitors.

Why should you check your company name?

To avoid confusion, a company name cannot be registered in the commercial register if a similar name already exists at the company’s registered office – i.e. in the city or municipality. As long as a corporation outside the city or municipality has the same or a similar name, registration and use are normally not prohibited.

However, if the corporate name is misleading, there may be a violation of competition law. As long as an identical or similar company name has not yet been used, it cannot be used for similar goods and services that are already protected by a trade mark application.

Alternatively, a company that has earlier property rights can claim injunctive relief and damages for the infringement of its name right. To rule this out, you can check the intended company name to see whether it is already being used by another company or is protected as a trademark.

Check company names: Your options

Use a trademark search to find out whether the company name you want to use is already protected as a trademark. Alternatively, you can also check whether the company name is already in use. This way you can rule out the possibility that the name has already been taken over by another company.

For example, you can check your company name in:

  • Trade, cooperative and partnership registers,
  • App shops and other directories such as Google Play,
  • the company’s records
  • and in databases.

Don’t forget that much of our communication nowadays takes place via the smartphone. Trademark and patent rights often protect the names of apps. Therefore, you should also check the Google PlayStore and iTunes to see if there are other products with the same name on the market.

Checking social media is the last step. Does the name you want to use for your business already exist on social media platforms like Instagram or YouTube? If so, you can make an educated guess as to whether or not the name will be dropped due to similarity.

A quick Google News search is also a good idea: are there any media reports about a company with the same name? The success of your business can be affected by third party publicity. Search diligently and remember that the internet stores little of what it has already seen.

Company name for your own domain

You need to have an online presence that matches the name of your business. To do this, you need a domain. Therefore, it is important to check whether the domain name you have chosen is still accessible through common databases.

Don’t forget to check the company name for spelling mistakes in the domain! In many cases it is a good idea to choose a slightly modified version of the domain name.

What happens after the name is granted?

If you find trade marks with the same or very similar wording in the Trade Mark Office register, you should repeat your name search. The commercial use of a brand name is protected by strict trade mark law, which gives the trade mark owner considerable rights (word mark).

The rights of the opposing party, on the other hand, take precedence. Defendants can claim injunctive relief and damages if they can prove trademark infringement and you continue to use the protected name.

The company name as the key to success

You should be able to pronounce the name of your company in any country where you want to do business in the future. It is also important that the company name does not evoke bad associations in other languages. A native speaker can check this for you quickly and effortlessly.

In addition, the influence of the company name can be evaluated by different people. The name of the organisation can also be examined for negative or undesirable associations. It can also be checked whether the company name is remembered and easily recalled.

If the company name passes the trademark, competition and language tests, proceed with caution to avoid potential pitfalls. After that, the company name is ready for use.

Checking company names: the use of own names

The right to use your own name is theoretically unchallengeable. However, many rights can overlap, especially when it comes to company names. The right to a name is based on the fundamentals:

  • of the Civil Code,
  • of trademark law,
  • the Unfair Competition Act
  • and the Commercial Code.

Trademark protection vs. right to a name

In terms of content, the clauses in both legal texts are almost identical. But what happens when name and trademark rights collide? Trademark law often takes precedence over the right to use one’s own name. An actual trademark registration carries more weight than an entry in the commercial register.

Company names in the Commercial Code

§ Section 30 of the Commercial Code states the following for all registered companies and merchants: The commercial register of the registry court prohibits registering a second company or its branch under the same name. The names of the companies must be easily recognisable. However, the company name is exempt from this rule.

Check company names: What does trademark law say?

In theory, trade mark registration protects goods and services rather than company names. § Section 15(2) MarkenG grants the trade mark owner an exclusive right to choose his company name. This protects both the trademark owner and the end consumer, as there is less chance for customers to confuse which company offers what.

Names are protected by the Civil Code

Everyone is entitled to the freedom to choose their own name. The German Civil Code (§ 12 BGB) applies if you name your company after your own name. Your right to a name can be infringed if someone else uses the name without your consent. A demonstrably harmful use by a third party can be legally prevented.

Have a company name checked by a lawyer

An important first step in starting a business is to come up with a name for the business. And why? Because this is the moment when you will be working with your name for years to come. You can argue about whether or not the name of a business is good or bad.

Companies with names that are difficult to pronounce have been successful, while others have built such a strong brand on their names that the product is no longer relevant. When choosing a company name, legal considerations always take precedence over aesthetics.

It can be costly and jeopardise your company’s reputation if the name you want to use is already protected by another company. In some cases, a company’s name may only be protected in a particular industry or country.

As a business grows and expands, challenges are bound to arise. For this reason, it is best to consult a lawyer before deciding on a company name.