Business Doctor: Beware imitations of business names

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EP writes: I have a number of operations trading under different business names, but account for them all through one limited company. What can I do to ensure no one else starts using the same names?

You can take legal action to protect brands if you can demonstrate someone is passing themselves off as your business, but it is better to take preventive action, writes Jon Dawson, partner at Kingston Smith LLP.

First, consider how important your brands are and whether they need protecting. To avoid restructuring your business, register a limited company for each important brand and keep it dormant. This will stop anyone else registering the same, or similar, company name in the UK.

Registering social media accounts and website domains in your business names will make it harder for someone to use your brand value for their own purposes. You can also register a trademark, where appropriate, for a relatively low cost. This gives legal protection for words or logos.

If you believe someone could use your brand names, carry out regular searches. You can easily set up a check for positive or negative social media sentiment.

You will be able to take legal action if you have a strong trading history under a business name. You will have to show you have a reputation and have suffered a loss. Legal costs can be significant and it can be harder to enforce in overseas jurisdictions.