How To Determine If Your Business Name Confuses People

I have really been blessed in the recent months with invitations to speak to groups of people. I just recently spoke at Arkansas Tech to the Engineering students graduating in May. The topic of discussion was Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright Infringement. I explained that I am not a Patent Attorney, but I would speak to the importance of such things when it comes to running one’s business. I then guided them to work with a Patent Attorney on specific questions.

As a business owner you have rights to the property created for and by your company. Even without filing for trademark protections or putting a copyright symbol on your works, the creation is what makes it belong to the owner. To check if your business name has already been chosen by someone else, perform an Entity Search in your State. This can be done by going to your State’s Secretary of State website and typing in variations of your prospective name. Completing this step in your business planning process can help you avoid issues and alleviate any potential problems in the future.

With that being said, you also have a duty. This duty cannot be waived by claiming ignorance or lack of knowledge. An article written for Entrepreneur Magazine by Lindsay LaVine titled When Business Names Confuse Consumers: The Basics of Trademark Law provides a basic understanding of the significance of  creating a business name that is dissimilar to other businesses. This article explains the importance of very basic business principles that can have a huge impact on a business before it even gets off the ground.

Here I have summarized the seven factors from Ms. LaVine’s article a court looks at to determine whether a business name is too similar to an already existing business name.

She offers these seven factors as the following:

  1. The strength of the mark. Is it a generic symbol or one that identifies your particular brand?
  2. Commonality of the marks. Is the mark commonly used by third parties?
  3. Proof of actual confusion. Has the name caused confusion?
  4. Similarity of the marks. Comparing the names or marks, could one come to the conclusion that they were created to confuse.
  5. Similarity of services, service outlets, and customers. If one company is providing accounting services and the other supplies vending machines, it is less likely that a similarity in business names will cause any issues.
  6. Similarities of the parties’ advertising media. For Example, if both companies are targeting the same customers on Facebook.
  7. Defendant’s Intent. The defendant’s intent to cause confusion among consumers will be looked upon by an evaluation of their efforts to confuse.

For a copy of the whole article, visit https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226140.

LynMarie’s next speaking engagement is at the University of Arkansas – Morrilton on Monday, February 12, 2018 to the Entrepreneurship class regarding The Importance of Hiring a Lawyer and Accountant.

References

LaVine, L. (2013). When Business Names Confuse Consumers: The Basics of Trademark Law. Retrieved November 18, 2017 from the World Wide Web at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226140.

Disclaimer: LynMarie Liberty Ellington is an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas. She is an attorney, but not your attorney unless you have a signed attorney/client agreement. The information provided via all print and digital materials is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a personal or business legal issue, please contact an attorney with knowledge on your topic and licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

What about Domestic Relations (Divorce) Mediation?

What is Mediation?

According to a Google search, mediation is intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it; arbitration. However, this simple definition often causes confusion. Mediation is NOT arbitration!

Arbitration is the private, judicial determination of a dispute, by an independent third party. Think of it as submitting your case, or arguing your case to an arbitrator rather than a judge.

While mediation and arbitration are both dispute resolution processes, they are very different in practice.

Mediation can be thought of as assisted negotiation. While the mediator helps the parties reach an agreement each is satisfied with, the mediator does not evaluate each side’s view or determine who is right or wrong. A mediator does not determine the terms by which the parties will be held accountable.

Mediation is a voluntary process. Individuals can discontinue the mediation process at any time. Mediation is collaborative in that each party must work together for mediation to be successful and no one party has a better standing or case than the other party.

The mediation process is confidential. The mediator is an impartial, neutral party assisting the parties in coming to a mutual agreement. While the mediator does not offer legal advice, parties can participate in mediation with the assistance of legal counsel or communicate with legal counsel before making a final decision on an agreement.

 

What Do I Need To Do To Prepare For Mediation?

Understand that mediation is an opportunity. If your dispute goes to trial a judge or jury will ultimately decide how you and the other party will proceed in the future. Mediation gives each party an opportunity to have a combined say in the outcome of their dispute.

All mediation is voluntary. Even if you have been court-ordered to mediation, you are not required to come to a resolution. It is important to look at the mediation process as an opportunity to compromise and have a say in the final agreement moving forward.

As part of our Mediation Packet, we provide a document for you to prepare your ideal outcome, what you can live with, and an absolute “No Resolution” situation. List out your must-haves and things you are willing to entertain to resolve your dispute.

Having an open mind and willingness to listen to other possible resolutions is the key to coming to a solution everyone will be satisfied with.

Understand that mediation is a confidential process. The things you say or do at mediation will not be used in court, except for a few exceptions like an expression of a future criminal act or a lawsuit against the mediator.

Although you cannot guarantee how prepared the other party will be, if at all possible, you may want to suggest open dialogue with the other party before the mediation session.

Why should I use Domestic Relations Mediation?

I look at mediation as a great opportunity for parents! Litigation can result in unhappy parents with an agreement one or both cannot live up to. For individuals with time constraints, changing schedules (I think this describes most people!), and other people in their lives, mediation offers divorcing spouses the opportunity to customize the plans for their future. For people already divorced or never married, you can use mediation to come to agreements with another parent about a variety of issues including but not limited to support, visitation, property division, and the list goes on.

When individuals visualize mediation as a customized agreement as opposed to a cookie-cutter mandate imposed by a third party (the judge), parties start to appreciate the importance of the opportunity being given to them. It is not uncommon that the standard visitation set forth by the state is unrealistic or intrusive in your family’s way of parenting. If the judge is the one making the decisions, you and your family will have to live with the results.

Mediation allows the parties to maintain control over their future, as well as, how they will parent their child or children in the future.

Mediation is also more cost-effective than adversarial litigation. If parents can work together and reach an agreement, the time and money spent on the divorce process is significantly lower.

Mediation can result in less stress and reduce future conflict. Parents that reach a settlement together are more likely to work together later when changes are needed.

Disclaimer: LynMarie Liberty-Ellington is an Attorney and a Certified Mediator. As an attorney, an attorney-client relationship is formed and an attorney works zealously for their client’s rights. A mediator is a neutral party and does not represent either party as an attorney. The information contained in this post is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. Any and all website content and/or other print or digital information distributed by LynMarie Liberty-Ellington is for informational purposes only. If you have a legal concern, seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.