Q: If another business in another state has the same name as mine, what ramifications could be involved?
I am in the process of starting my business with the paperwork having been filed to the state of Maryland. Since filing, I found out that another business exists with the same name out of California. Both businesses have the potential for national and global reach (theirs is a fiction magazine, mine is a book publisher). What ramifications are there if I were to keep my name?
A: Assuming neither business is currently doing business in each others current territories, and assuming neither business has registered the name as a federal trade name with the USTPO, there would be no appaent conflict. An agument might be made that the two businesses are sufficiently dissimilar in product that there is no risk of consumers being confused by the similarity (although that is unclear). But you anticipate a national or global growth in one or both brands, which may pose issues in the future. You should check the federal trademark database here: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks. If the name is not currently registered and active, you can start the process of doing so. Securing the trademark will not allow you to bar the other company's use in its territory (they started using the name first), but it could be used to prohibit its use outside of their current business territories. You could also avoid the issue by changing your name to one that has not already been taken by a similar business. One option would be to keep your current company name as organized and filed, but register a new unique trade name to operate under, owned by your company, and trademark that name. Consult a trademark attorney for a fuller analysis of how best to proceed.
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