Folksy Ltd

Can we protect our business name?


(Julia Blakeman) #1

I’ve been trading as The Crafty Bride since October 2009. I’m registered with HMRC for tax as a self-employed sole trader. I’m on FB, Twitter, here and Etsy and I have a Flickr account (although I no longer use Flickr really). In the past I have had people pinch my logo, which I got stopped and then I had a new one designed which incorporated my business name to prevent further occurrences of that happening. I had someone attempt to make copies of one of my unique designs, which I stopped. Now there is another business of the same name operating on FB since February 2014 and I have been getting enquiries for their goods and also flack from their disgruntled customers. Luckily so far all of them have been apologetic and understood that I am not them but its still not nice having to deal with someone else’s irate customers. I have contacted this other company and they reckon that they googled the name and nothing came up and so they used it. Yeah, right.

I had already made the decision earlier in the year to wind down and close The Crafty Bride by the end of the financial year (hopefully), even if I have to sell the stock off on Ebay, I want it gone and to just carry on with my other business making different things to The Crafty Bride.

What I want to know is, before that shop name becomes too well known and all over Google is: Can I protect my business name so that no one else can use it and how can I do that?

I’ve been looking at registering as a Trade Mark but not sure if that just protects my logo or my business name as well given that my logo includes my business name. It’s £170 for 10 years and there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted and if its not you don’t get your money back but if it protects my business name as well then I think it might be worth trying. Someone suggested that you can protect your business name by registering as a Limited Company but I don’t know what that entails and from what my husband read out to me I need to have Directors and shares and urggghhhhh sounds complicated and involved.

Does anyone have any experience of this? I’m not needing to protect designs of items at this point, just stop people pinching my unique business name bringing my business into disrepute.


(Louise Grace Jewellery) #2

I think if the other person is a registered business like yourself then they will not be allowed to use a name similar to yourself. When they register with HMRC they will be told if their name is too similar to another business and they will have to change it. Unfortunately not everyone who sells on-line registers their business or are even aware that they have to. I’m not 100% sure on it all myself as I’m relatively new to the whole selling experience and learning as I go but I hope someone on here will be able to guide you in the right direction.


(Julia Blakeman) #3

I forgot to mention that she said she has bought a domain name and so the name is hers. The website has got © 2012 on it but my guess is that you could put any date in yourself, not necessarily the actual date of creation. The reason I say this is that I Google my business names regularly (following a trolling incident involving me getting slagged off on a site that I wasn’t a member of by someone I had no dealings with who took exception to my products and my prices a few years ago) and I look through several pages, just not the first couple, and I had never seen this website before so I do question the validity of the copyright date.


(Sara Leigh Thornton) #4

Can you look her up on the HMRC register of businesses? You could at least tell when she registered (if she has registered).

Also, I know with businesses like hair dressers you will get many using the same pun names (a cut above, etc) - so I don’t know whether there is anything you can do or not. But being an online business does make it a whole lot more complicated when someone uses the same name.


(Christine Shephard) #5

I thought it was only registered companies that were protected, such as limited companies. You have to register at Companies House and can’t have the same name as an existing registered company. Otherwise it’s a trade name, and I’m not sure whether they can be protected as trademarks (?). It’s a complicated process I know, whichever way you go.


(Jo Sara) #6

I would have said grab the domain name, even if you weren’t going to use it on a website then at least you’d own it and no one else could set up a website in that name. But if the other person has got the website domain already then that is a slight problem. If you ever want to use it you’d have to buy it off of them if they decide to keep renewing their claim on it. I think that’s a surefire way of getting a business name these days. I checked on the internet for any companies using my name when I first set up, then the next step was straight onto a web domain seller site to see if JoSara.co.uk was still available. If it hadn’t been I’d have known there might have been another company around, and even if there wasn’t not having the domain would stop me setting up my own website, which was a priority.

I didn’t think you could set up a Facebook page with the same name as someone elses? I’m sure when I was setting up I tried for JoSara and it said there was already a page with that name so I had to go with JoSaraDesign.

Jo


(Julia K Walton) #7

I have had quite a few companies piggy-backing on my ‘Love Buttons’ name (that I started using back in 2008). I think the others are right, in that unless it is a limited company, registered with Companies House, there is not a lot you can do about it.

I nabbed the LoveButtonsHQ.com website, but one of the copy-cat companies has taken love-buttons.co.uk domain (even though they sell general crafts and not just buttons!). It is almost impossible to cover all the bases with:-
.com
.co.uk
.co
.org
.net etc etc

You could try to trade mark the name/phrase, but if it is in ‘common usage’ you probably won’t be able to.

My husband bought a registered company name “Ravenshead Services Ltd” through a company specialising in that service, and, yes, we do have to have a Director, Company Secretary, shares and annual accounts. We employ an accountant to help with the accounts and reporting, so it can be an expensive process, unless you are a wizz at accounting yourself.


(Julia Blakeman) #8

My other business names is Draped In Lace, which is the one I would like to try to protect.


(Shirley Woosey) #9

I worked for Chartered Accountants for over 40 years and many many years ago you used to be able to register a business name if you were just a sole trader or a partnership.
This protected the name being used by other businesses. This register no longer exists and hasn’t done for about 15 years or longer.

HMRC will NOT tell you that you cannot use a name which is too similar to someone else’s name. After all lots of people trade under their own personal name and there will be a lot of duplicates. That is why HMRC give everyone a UTR number - unique tax reference number.

The only way I know of now to register a name is to make it a Limited Company. It’s relatively straight forward to do and only costs about £100. Then the name and the company is registered with The Registrar of Companies. But you are no longer a sole trader you will become a Director and Shareholder of the company and an employee of the company.

But there is a fair amount of form filling, and red tape involved in a Limited Company and I would advise anyone to use an accountant.

Shirley x


(Shirley Woosey) #10

I’ve just searched the Registrar of Companies and there are only two companies with names similar to Draped in Lace.

One is Drape Ltd and the other is Draped Ltd.
Therefore you would have no problem using Draped in Lace.

I am not sure but I think that if you register a Limited Company with the name Draped in Lace Limited, you can stop anyone else like a sole trader or partnership using the name. The limited company itself wouldn’t need to trade, it can just be a dormant company and you could then trade as a sole trader using the name Draped in Lace because obviously you aren’t going to tell yourself to stop using the name! LOL.
I would take advice from a Chartered Accountant about it though because I’ve been retired a couple of years now and am not up to date anymore with regulations.

Shirley x


(Julia Blakeman) #11

Thank you everyone. Lots of food for thought. I had already searched the Registrar of Companies. Its just the cost at the moment, I want to do, I feel I need to do it but I’ve no cash but I suppose I could whack it on the credit card for the time being.


(Ronald Koorm) #12

I concur that registration at Companies House of a company is probably the way forward, but that does not mean there aren’t, or might be, lots of companies with similar names. A slight difference is all they need in the name, providing no one else has that name. Check first on the register.

I just closed a Limited company recently, a very simple procedure compared with setting the company up.

Once you set up a company, it is possible to change or edit the categories of services you offer on the Companies House register. I went from providing a range of Surveying and Architectural services to adding ‘Specialist Photography’ some years ago. Later on, I deleted the former services after I took early retirement , to concentrate on “specialist photography”. So, it’s quite flexible.

Trademarking is something I considered too, but the cost can be certainly a bit of a barrier, unless you believe your products or product will really sell, and dominate the market due to a USP.


(Jo Sara) #13

I’ve been thinking on this a bit. I’m not registered with Company House, so what if someone else went along and registered as JoSara. Does that mean I then become illegal and not be able to use JoSara.co.uk?

I think I’m ok with having a pretty unique product, or style at least, so I think I’d be covered by intellectual copyright if anyone tried to become me and my products too. I’m just wondering if the name could be pinched from underneath me.


(Christine Shephard) #14

I think you can use any domain name that’s available, regardless of whether a company is using that name, although they might come after you if you were pretending to be them! If someone registered a company called JoSara, that would exclude you from registering it as well, with the same name, but I don’t think it stops you being able to use the name for trading, unless it’s been trademarked for a particular category of product. If someone else trademarked JoSara and was selling mosaics, you’d probably be infringing it.

The Companies House website should have more information about registering names, and there’s a useful Trademarks site somewhere that lists all the trademarked names - can’t remember where, but if I find it, I’ll add it.


(Jo Sara) #15

Found this government trade mark search - https://www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark

Edited to add this Companies House company name search - http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk//wcframe?name=accessCompanyInfo


(Julia Blakeman) #16

Thanks. The Trademarking I was thinking about was more for my logo/banner that I had designed for my shop to stop others from using it/pinching it as has happened in the past with my first one for The Crafty Bride, not the for the products that I sell.


(Ronald Koorm) #17

I think domain names are completely separate from Companies House registration. So they are on a first-come first-serve basis from the domain-seller.
That is why Car companies register separately lots of future names for cars they may or may not use, (eg Ford ‘Focus’), via Trademarks and Intellectual property. If you got there first, they would have to buy that name from you or you licence it to them.

So If someone does register at Companies House as JoSara Limited, I don’t suppose you could really challenge it, unless they were clearly trying to take your identity and pretend to be you.

But you can still use your domain name and keep your JoSara trading name, particularly if you can demonstrate you were there first.


(Julia Blakeman) #18

Right. I realise that I am resurrecting an old post but it has taken quite a few months to sort out and I am pleased to announce that I am registered as Draped In Lace Ltd with Companies House. I rang them and had a good chat with them and they went through everything with me. It cost me £15 to register and I have to file paperwork every year which costs about £12-£15 to do that. As long as I don’t trade as or use the “Ltd” part of the name all I have to do is send this downloadable form each year to state my name, address etc and to say that I have not traded as a “Ltd” company cos if you do trade as a Ltd company, that is when you have to go down the lines of corporation tax and chartered accountants and all that expense. Do that each year and you can stop anyone else from opening a Ltd company in the same name as your sole trader company name and then you just carry on and do your sole trader/self-employed tax return as usual since you are continuing to trade as a sole trader.

The other thing that I have done, and what has taken the time and I have finally gotten it sorted and in place, is that I have registered the words Draped In Lace as a registered Trade Mark. The IPO office were very helpful and told me that if I Trade Mark my logo, even though it has my business name contained within it, that it doesn’t stop anyone else trading as a sole trader using the Draped In Lace name, it only protects the style/design of the logo. They informed me that the only way to protect your sole trader business name is to Trade Mark the name itself, in my case the words Draped In Lace and that is exactly what I have done. This does have its limits in so far that it will only protect the name in the category or categories that you have registered the Trade Mark in. Having said that, I think the name can only really refer to a handful of item types and the category that I have registered it in should cover most, if not all, of those potential items. I really can’t see anyone wanting to call a car parts business Draped In Lace but even if they did, its not going to get mixed up with my business is it.


(Rosesworkshop) #19

Wow! What a lot of work Julia, but thanks for telling us.

I researched Roses Workshop before I started it, so I knew I could have the same name here, on twitter etc, and the .co.uk domain name. Since then there is already a .com website that I know of, and there may be .org or .net or something too. I couldn’t face the whole limited company / corporation tax thing, but that part-way registered option sounds interesting


(Leslie Morton) #20

Registering a Company Name is a very simple process. There is only one form to complete and as mentioned above you can become the sole Director & Shareholder. There is an advantage to having your husband, partner or even your adult child designated as a Director or Secretary for a morbid reason but helpful. In the case of your death, if set up properly it would allow the survivor to easily either wind up or continue the business as they see fit or pursuant to your wishes. Speak to an accountant or solicitor to set up the company. They will usually charge you a fee to set it up but to me, it is money well spent. They will also keep the seal for you if you wish.

Hope this helps,
Leslie

ETA I’m sorry, I didn’t read through the whole thread. Bad habit of mine that has gotten me in trouble before. I am very glad you got this sorted. I wiih you all the best.