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Companies Office registration does not protect company names

29 November 2012

Companies Office registration does not protect company names, brands or logos

The most common mistake Kiwi business owners make is thinking that their brand name is protected because the New Zealand Companies Office (Companies Office) allowed them to register the company.

Intellectual property expert, Theodore Doucas of Zone IP, an intellectual property consultancy in Wellington, said he receives phone calls every week from puzzled business owners who want to know why their company name wasn’t automatically registered as a trade mark when they registered with the Companies Office.

“Registering your company name with the Companies Office gives you an identity, like a birth certificate, but it does not prevent somebody else trading under your name or one that is confusingly similar.

“It is important to remember that not every company trades under its company name, and that would be one of the many reasons the Companies Office doesn’t police names.”

Mr Doucas said trade mark protection however allows companies to put the ® symbol behind the name of the company, brand, slogan or other mark and it also gives them statutory protection from somebody else trading off of their good name.

“A trade mark actually protects the goodwill and value that the brand name or mark accumulates while trading successfully, and essentially creates an asset that can be bought or sold.

“In other words, it's the sum total of the hard work you have put in to the business. A trade mark also protects the consumer from cheap rip-offs.”

Mr Doucas said his advice to companies thinking of a company or brand name was to avoid names that describe the goods and services they provide.

“For example, ‘we design websites’ describes what you do and makes a good URL, but it is too generic for a trade mark.

“The name, brand or mark should be unique and could make reference to your products or services in a clever way, like Google’s misspelling of ‘googol’.

“Registering your trade mark distinguishes your brand from the competition and will also give you a fair indication of whether you are infringing somebody else’s trade mark,” he said.


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