Legal Question in Business Law in Ohio

Business names

I am starting a small, local computer training business and haven't registered a name yet, but have a couple small ads running with a slogan-type name (Your Computer Helper). I found what appears to be a good-sized company online with the same name. They do training too, but much more than that, and on what seems to be a national level. I did a trademark search online and didn't find the name. Am I in danger of legal action using the same name as this other company?

Asked on 1/26/07, 3:07 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Shalem Shem-Tov The Shem-Tov Law Firm, Inc.

Re: Business names

You might be. Just because the name is not registered as a trademark is not enough. A name (called a "mark" in trademark lingo) can also be protected without a registration through various methods. One is known as "secondary meaning", which affords protection to a mark that is already recognized by the public even if it's not registered.

Also, I did a quick search and found other companies with REGISTERED marks that are very similar: "Computer Helper USA", "The Computer Helper", and several registrations for "Computer Helpers". All this means that you really should stay away from this name.

There is another problem: "Your Computer Helper" describes what you do, and is known as a "merely descriptive mark". Such marks are very weak and are usually not a good choice. Further, you will have a hard time registering such a name.

I specialize in helping new and small businesses with issues like this, and would be happy to discuss your options with you. Please contact me.

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Answered on 1/26/07, 3:24 pm

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