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.

Super Small Businesses: IRS Form 940 and 941 Now Due

Hey, Super Small Business Owners! I hope all is going well as we finish up January 2018. This is just a reminder—and please note that I will NOT be reminding you of all your tax deadlines!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 is the due date for Form 940: Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return, and another quarter of Form 941: Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

So, what does this mean for you… If you set up an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS when you started your business, you are responsible for these forms, unless you are exempt or changed status (such as changed to a yearly filer of Form 941 shortly after creating your biz, terminated business, etc.). If when you filed for an EIN Number you stated that you would not have employees, you need to check your original Letter assigning you your Employer Identification Number: Form SS-4.

Please note, if you are required to file these forms but have nothing to report, you are still responsible for filing the forms.

If you are not sure, check your Letter, Form SS-4 for guidance about what you should file.

If you cannot find this letter or lost track of it, you will want to take the time to call the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 and go to the queue for Employer Forms.

Finally, if when you originally applied for your Employer Identification Number you claimed that you would not have employees and now your business has grown, you need to file the form even if you only have one employee. If you are not sure, contact the IRS at the above number and let them know you now have an employee and they will guide you through what you need to do and what forms you are required to submit.

One last thing, the due date for both forms is January 31, 2018. If you have any questions and need to call the IRS, you will want to do so sooner rather than later. The telephone wait can be 30-45 minutes so plan to do some menial tasks or answer e-mail while you wait.

Resources

Irs.gov

 

Disclaimer: I am an attorney, but I’m NOT your attorney. The information provided on our blog, webinars, books, print and digital materials is for informational purposes only. This in no way creates an attorney/client relationship. If you have a legal concern or issue, please contact an attorney with knowledge on your topic licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

Supersmallbiz.com is a division of Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation, PLLC. Any business information is provided for informational purposes only. The information provided does not guarantee in any way business performance or success.

The IRS Does NOT Call (Usually): Communication Alert

 

 

While doing work at the office today, I happen to answer the phone when a call came in from 1-315-227-2006.

They said, “This is the IRS and a lawsuit has been filed against you.”

I knew about this scam, so I just said, OK.”

The person on the other end of the line stated, “I need the last 4 of your social.”

I said, “I will not give you that over the phone.”

I was expecting an explanation, but they went straight to, “Please provide me with your Attorney’s name and number.”

  • I can see where this would bother someone getting such a strange call! But please note, the IRS does NOT call about a lawsuit.

I then told the caller, “I’d be representing myself.”

They asked,”Are you an attorney?”

I said, “Yes.”

They then asked to verify my Bar information.

When I asked them to clarify, they hung up the phone.

 

At this point, I called back…

I told the caller that I had gotten a call and that we got cut off. The person on the phone started to repeat what the first caller had said, but after about 30-45 seconds, they disconnected.

I attempted to call back, but apparently nobody wanted to play anymore.

 

*Once again, the IRS does not call you to tell you they are filing a lawsuit against you. The first step would be documentation- The IRS wants a paper trail! With that being said, if you are in the midst of a matter with the IRS and you are already working with an agent associated with the Department of the Treasury, then you may get a call. However, this is not the typical first line of communication you will receive when dealing with a financial situation being brought against you from the federal government.

If you get a call like this, do not give any information and call your state’s Attorney General.

 

Supersmallbiz.com is a division of Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation, PLLC.

 

 

Legal Practice Update

I’m really excited to report that Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation is going better than expected. As many of you know I was a little concerned with opening a practice in a small town because all of my previous businesses were started in large to super large cities. (Albuquerque, Denver, Dallas). Liberty-Ellington Law and Mediation-Reception Area

But I did not let this deter me, because I really wanted to establish my practice close to home with minimal commute. My building has been such a blessing. We are located in downtown Russellville, AR at 100 Denver. We are right next door to Fat Daddy’s BBQ and part of a great downtown community. Downtown Russellville is a great organization that is helping to revive the old, downtown feel with monthly activities such as the recent Fall Festival. As a downtown business, we are blessed to have the opportunity to participate and help the community as well. IMG_1776[1]

We have a great community and wonderful clients. I spend about half my time working with various legal clients on business, landlord/tenent issues, and family law. Our community has approximately 30 attorneys, and everyone has been gracious and welcoming.

I offer unbundled services, which I think has been a great factor in our success this first few months. The rest of my time is spent working with businesses and owners to promote good business and prevent legal issues from arising.

I am really excited that business is going well, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has to offer!