Is using a similar business name ethical?

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bulldog0077
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Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by bulldog0077 »

I am revamping the business. Another business in the same field and geographic area has a name similar to the one I would like to use. If the change I would make to the name would be subtle e.g. adding a couple letters or rearranging the same letters would it be ethical?
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by NukeBan »

Maybe ethical, but probably not smart. I'd give it more thought and try to come up with a unique brand name.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Terrapin Station »

What you're in danger of there is trademark infringement. Trademark infringement cases are adjudicated based on whether consumers would reasonably confuse the two businesses for each other. So the closer your name, logo, slogans, etc., especially when operating in the same industry, the more chance you have of being in trademark violation.

So it's probably not a good idea. If your idea was to create confusion to give yourself more business, you're probably going to wind up with a trademark infringement suit. If that wasn't your idea, it's probably best to just pick a different name.

Trademark law is designed to give businesses "identity protection."
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

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Nathan Makh
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Nathan Makh »

I'm planning to open a new business and I've found a name that's very similar to an existing one in the same industry. I'm worried about the ethical implications and potential legal issues. Has anyone here faced a similar situation? How did you handle it?
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Lagayscienza »

It depends whether the business name you want to use is similar to an already registered business name and whether that business name is also a trademark. If the name you want use is too similar to an existing one and/or that business name is also a trademark, you could face legal problems. A trademark is intellectual property. If you use someone else's trade mark you are stealing their intellectuial property. Stealing is an ethical as well as a legal issue. You could face legal action, so be careful. This is not the place to seek or give legal advice. So talk to an intellectual property lawyer.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Good_Egg »

Lagayscienza wrote: June 20th, 2024, 6:53 pm A trademark is intellectual property. If you use someone else's trade mark you are stealing their intellectuial property. Stealing is an ethical as well as a legal issue.
As an ethical issue, "intellectual property" is a little less cut-and-dried than it may be legally.

If you're a hairdresser and want to call your salon "A Cut Above", but then discover that in another town that name has already been used, then it seems to me that you do no wrong to anyone by using the same name. It may or may not be legal, but your conscience is clear.

You thought of the name independently, you are taking no custom away from the other hairdresser (because you're outside his catchment area) and you're not deceiving anyone.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Lagayscienza »

If "A Cut Above" is a registered trademark, it cannot legally be used by others. Whether you think you do no wrong morally be using it is irrelevant. How do prospective clients know that there is no affilliation between your salon and the well known trademark holder's salon(s)? That sort of passing off is wrong in both tort and in terms of modern, codified trademark legislation.

I think it is also morally wrong. It is a form of stealing. Salons invest money and do a lot of hard work to build clientelle and they have a right to protect their intellectual property. And the same goes for all businesses. I'm no lover of multi-ntional corporations but brands like Coca Cola have to be built just like mum and dad businesses such as the "A Cut Above" salon. Business names and trademarks are intellectual propery that should be protected on both legal and moral grounds.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Good_Egg »

Lagayscienza wrote: July 9th, 2024, 11:27 am If "A Cut Above" is a registered trademark, it cannot legally be used by others.
Not disputing the legal position, which is probably similar in your country and mine. I'm interested in the moral argument.
I think it is also morally wrong. It is a form of stealing.
I think parsing breaches of IP law as stealing is a philosophical error.

We're talking about the act of using in town A a business name that is a registered trademark for a business in town B.

Do you think this is morally wrong in a "state of nature" prior to any man-made law ? Or only morally wrong because it is illegal ?

Stealing is the former. Theft is morally wrong prior to any law. If you really think it is stealing, then it is wrong regardless of the law.

I agree with you that it would be morally wrong to make a cheap brown sugary drink and sell it as Coca Cola. But that would be wrong primarily because it would be an act of deceit against the customer. Not because anybody has a property right in any concept of cheap brown sugary drinks.

If we were to apply this understanding - the wrong of copying being a wrong of deceit rather than of theft - to the hairdresser example, what would we conclude? Would it not be that - morally speaking - it is wrong to call your salon by a well-known name in order to deceitfully imply a connection that does not exist ? But there is no wrong if two people happen to come up with the same name independently ? Because there is in that no intent to deceive.

Is this not obvious ?
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Lagayscienza »

Our laws usually follow our morals.

Let's imagine that I one day decide to try a salon called A Cut Above in town A where I live. I find that am happy with the way they did my hair. Then a couple of months later I happen to be in town B and see a salon which is also called A Cut Above. I'm due to have my hair done again and I have some free time during my visit to town B. So, instead of waiting until I get home to town A, and thinking there is a connection between A Cut Above in town B and thin town A and A cut Above in town A, I get my hair done at A Cut Above town B becasue I also think it is likely that I will be as happy with the result as I was with that the result I got from the salon of the same name in town A.

Now, has A Cut Above in town B, which is illegally using the busness name, A Cut Above, deprived A Cut Above salon in town A of business? I think it may have. And I think it's use of another businesse's registered trade mark/business name could amount to theft of valuable intellectual property. And theft is a moral issue. It is also a legal issue and A cut Above in town B could be sued by A cut Above in town A.

If two people come up with a business name or a tradmark inependently, then they would be well advised to register it. However, even if they do not do so, the law will take account of prior use. So, say, for example, that Coca Cola had never bothered to get the drink they call Cocva Cola registered. Coca Cola is the name of a product that has been around since the late 1800s and which nearly everyone on earth knows. It will have been recognized as a product name and trade mark for over a century and the law would recognize this prior use. Therefore, if anyone today tried to register Coca Cola as a trade mark, they would not succeed in any country wherethe Coca Cola is known and sold, even though it had never before registered. The Common Law doctrine of prior use would protect the name Coca Cola, and that doctrine has now codified by legislation.

I think this is fair and just. For anyone to suddenly be able to register the name Coca Cola after over a century of use by the owners of the drink called Coca Cola would be unjust and a theft of very valuable intellctual property built up over many years with much investment and hard work. Again, theft of any sort of property is a moral issue and therefore a philosphical issue. In its moral implications, the theft of intellectual property is no different from the theft of other sorts of property.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

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Lagayscienza wrote: July 11th, 2024, 5:22 am Our laws usually follow our morals.

Let's imagine that I one day decide to try a salon called A Cut Above in town A where I live. I find that am happy with the way they did my hair. Then a couple of months later I happen to be in town B and see a salon which is also called A Cut Above. I'm due to have my hair done again and I have some free time during my visit to town B. So, instead of waiting until I get home to town A, and thinking there is a connection between A Cut Above in town B and thin town A and A cut Above in town A, I get my hair done at A Cut Above town B becasue I also think it is likely that I will be as happy with the result as I was with that the result I got from the salon of the same name in town A.

Now, has A Cut Above in town B, which is illegally using the busness name, A Cut Above, deprived A Cut Above salon in town A of business? I think it may have. And I think it's use of another businesse's registered trade mark/business name could amount to theft of valuable intellectual property. And theft is a moral issue. It is also a legal issue and A cut Above in town B could be sued by A cut Above in town A.

If two people come up with a business name or a tradmark inependently, then they would be well advised to register it. However, even if they do not do so, the law will take account of prior use. So, say, for example, that Coca Cola had never bothered to get the drink they call Cocva Cola registered. Coca Cola is the name of a product that has been around since the late 1800s and which nearly everyone on earth knows. It will have been recognized as a product name and trade mark for over a century and the law would recognize this prior use. Therefore, if anyone today tried to register Coca Cola as a trade mark, they would not succeed in any country wherethe Coca Cola is known and sold, even though it had never before registered. The Common Law doctrine of prior use would protect the name Coca Cola, and that doctrine has now codified by legislation.

I think this is fair and just. For anyone to suddenly be able to register the name Coca Cola after over a century of use by the owners of the drink called Coca Cola would be unjust and a theft of very valuable intellctual property built up over many years with much investment and hard work. Again, theft of any sort of property is a moral issue and therefore a philosphical issue. In its moral implications, the theft of intellectual property is no different from the theft of other sorts of property.
My understanding (as a non expert), is that I could open Cola Cola Dry Cleaners tomorrow even though Coca Cola is trademarked, because it is trademarked as a soda company, if I can convince 12 people that a reasonable customer would not confuse Dry Clesning with soda. OTOH, I'd have a much more difficult time with Croca Crola soda as a name (even though is it not Coca Cola), because a reasonable customer could confuse the two as they're both soda.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

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bulldog0077 wrote: April 25th, 2020, 5:10 pm I am revamping the business. Another business in the same field and geographic area has a name similar to the one I would like to use. If the change I would make to the name would be subtle e.g. adding a couple letters or rearranging the same letters would it be ethical?
Copythievery is never right. But maybe the lure of "easier" fades if reflecting that another will carry the similar lable and might be feeding on my labor unrightly.

Today a gain, tomorrow own prison and lose. In the case cause and effects, and fear of wrongdoing can be transported in this way better.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Lagayscienza »

I just read my previous post and saw all the typos. Oh well, I think the meaning was clear enough.

I think if you opened "Cocal Cola Dry Cleaners" you would get some big push-back from Coca Cola Corporation. For one thing, they may not like their product being associated with dry cleaning and the nasty fluids used such as Perchloroethylene (PERC). Moreover, the dry cleaners would be trading on Coca Cola's name and be guilty of "passing off" under Common Law and under statute. I'm sure there would be other grounds for opposition but I would have to get my old law books out or look it up online. There is a heap of legislation and case law that would need to be considered. Too tedious. I'm retired.
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Good_Egg »

Lagayscienza wrote: July 11th, 2024, 5:22 am Our laws usually follow our morals.

Let's imagine that I one day decide to try a salon called A Cut Above in town A where I live. I find that am happy with the way they did my hair. Then a couple of months later I happen to be in town B and see a salon which is also called A Cut Above. I'm due to have my hair done again and I have some free time during my visit to town B. So, instead of waiting until I get home to town A, and thinking there is a connection between A Cut Above in town B and thin town A and A cut Above in town A, I get my hair done at A Cut Above town B becasue I also think it is likely that I will be as happy with the result as I was with that the result I got from the salon of the same name in town A.
Such confusion is possible, even if unlikely.

I once accidentally went to the funeral of someone I didn't know at all, because he had the same name as someone I knew slightly and respected more. Overhearing that the person had died, I thought the name referred to the one I knew, and on the basis of this misapprehension went along to the funeral of what turned out to be a complete stranger.

Does the possibility of confusion mean that somebody has done something morally wrong ? Did the parents of whichever of the two men was born second do wrong by giving their child the same firstname-surname combination as an existing child ?

If not, why should such an act be morally OK when naming a child but not when naming a small business ?

You're approaching this from the wrong end. You're starting by telling me (fairly and accurately, as far as I can tell) what the law is, and then inferring a moral wrong from a legal wrong. Instead of starting from a moral premise and reasoning from there.

As I understand it the argument you have stated goes like this:
- people have a legal duty to respect the legal rights of property of others (including whatever the law defines as a person's property)
- people have a moral duty to respect the moral rights of property of others ("theft is a moral issue")
- therefore people have a moral duty to respect all legal rights of property, including intellectual property.

Can you see why that is flawed ? If the law gives someone a right to the slave labour of others, or some form of droit de seigneur, is there a moral duty to respect such legal rights ?
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Re: Is using a similar business name ethical?

Post by Lagayscienza »

It is not cear to me that I am appraoching the issue from the wrong end. Our morality came first and our law follows. So, for example, I know that it would be morally wrong for me to nick your wallet. And virtually all people agree that me stealing your wallet would be morally wrong. And that moral sentiment has been encoded in our law.

Intellectual property can belong to people just like your wallet belongs to you. Stealing intellectual property is morally wrong in the same way that stealing your wallet is wrong. I don't see any flaw in my reasoning here. Imagine that you write a novel. Imagine further that I take your novel and alter a few sentnces and then pass it off as your own work. Have I stoenn anything of yours? I think I have. I have stolen intellectual property that belongs to you. I don't think there's anything complicated or tricky about the concept of intellectual property as something thst can be stolen. And since stealing is a moral issue it is also a philosiphical issue.
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