Many new companies are under the mistaken belief that obtaining approval for a company name automatically grants them trade mark protection. Unfortunately, this is not true.

A company name, as the name suggests, is the name under which an entity trades and is registered on the register of companies. In contrast, A trade mark is a word, phrase or device which distinguishes the goods and/or services of one company/person from those of another. Trade marks are registered on the register of trade marks. The owner of a registered trade mark is presumed to be the exclusive owner of the trade mark and can prevent others from using an identical or confusingly name in the course of trade.

You’ll be interested to know that despite the register of companies and the register of trade marks both being under the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) “umbrella”, their respective registers are not cross-checked. The obvious danger here is that a company may very well obtain approval to use a company name but it may later transpire that the approved name incorporates a pending or registered trade mark that belongs to another company. This often leads to company name objections. Imagine the inconvenience and cost of being forced to change your branding months down the line.

It is advisable for a company name reservation to be preceded by a separate trade mark availability search on the trade marks register to search for identical and/or confusingly similar names. This should also be accompanied by extensive market research to check for trade marks that are not on the register but may have acquired a reputation in the market through use. Once the said checks have been conducted, serious consideration should be given to filing a trade mark application for the proposed company name.

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