Harrisburg, PA asked in Intellectual Property for Pennsylvania

Q: Business name intellectual property question

I want to start an HVAC repair business. I have a common last name in my area of the country (US), and I want to name the business using my last name. For the purposes of this post I'll use the pseudonym "Smith" - so I want to name my HVAC business "Smith Air Conditioning & Heating".

However, in an adjacent county there is an established HVAC company using the same last name but with a different descriptor - "Smith Mechanical Group" (again using "Smith" as a pseudonym). They offer similar services to what I would like to offer.

If I name my business "Smith Air Conditioning & Heating" will that be an infringement on the other company's intellectual property?

Thank you.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kathryn Perales
Kathryn Perales

A: Since your name is common, and you're naming your business a generic/descriptive name which describes exactly what you'll be doing, you probably won't have a trademark problem. Usually other people can't stop you from using your own name for your business. Best to search the USPTO trademark database, as well as your state's official trademark database, to make sure what's registered.

Your more immediate problem may be that when you try to register your new business entity with your state's Secretary of State, you may find that you can't get the name that you want, because that name is taken, or is too similar to one that is already registered.

With your specific example, it seems to me that you would be successful.

Best for you to talk to your Secretary of States office, and/or consult with an attorney in your state to find out how you can legally use the business name you want.

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