What to do in a dispute over company name

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12 Jun 2010
from
Bury Hiab Hire Ltd

Hi,

My question is as follows:

A friend of mine has set up at company which is limited for the purpose of this lets call it xyz removals ltd another company based in the North West has a limited company but is called xyz internatinal Removals ltd, however the other company (xyz international removals) are advertising on there website and other directory sites as xyz removals ltd

As both are operating in the same sector "removals" would my friend have a right to make a claim as XYZ international Removals are passing off as xyz removals ltd? If so what action can my friend take? as my understanding is that it would be misleading customers? and he may have lost business because of this.

They operate within 10 miles of each other one is based in Stockport and the other in Warrington XYZ international Removals has been trading longer then my friend would this matter?

Any help or advice someone can give on this would be great.

Kind Regards

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12 Jun 2010
Jacqueline Drury

Ltd companies are legally bound to display their correct company name, company number and registered address on their website.

They must also display the correct company name on all orders, invoices, printed literature, advertising etc.

My first contact would be Companies House and then The Office of Fair Trading.

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Hi

Before i would be prepared to post a full reply to this i would ask you to consider te following

You have got a company bury hire grab limited i set up a company bury hire grab (nw)limited .You as bury hir grab lmited would have a chance to object to my name via copanies house to my trading name.As long as i could prove beyond reasonable doubt i was not working off the back off your company by using the nw bit i would be ok

If your friend can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the second company has traded or in this case perporting to your friends company there may be grounds for a claim.However in light of the fact the first company has been established longer than your friends company there are things to consider such as do they own the right to trade under the style of your friends company and do they infact have the right to seek legal action to stop your friend trading under the style they are.

This could open a needless can of worms and one that could prove coslty for your friend

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13 Jun 2010
Jacqueline Drury

A limited company cannot trade under a different limited company name to the one they have registered with companies house.

Your friend has registered a limited company name that the other company are using as an abbreviated version of their company name - they cannot do that it is against company law.

Do a search on the companies house website and see if anyone else has registered exactly the same moniker as your friend. If the result is negative, which is likely, then the only person allowed to trade under that limited company name is your friend.

Therefore, contact Companies House and then the OFT with your query. Asking the question of them won't hurt and they will advise you of the correct course of action which may actually involve them sending the guilty party a letter telling them to cease using the incorrect limited company name.

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Jacqueline

I can set up a limited company abc catering limited and using that limited company name t/a xyz catering services if i wanted as long as i show my limited company name registered office and company number on my letterhead ,invoices etc.

If any limited company has any objections to another limited company they can make representations to companies house stating why however in my experience companies house will not get involved in disputes over what name a limited company trades under unless there is prove any fraud or deception is being commited.As in the example i have given in my previous post by just adding nw will remove any association with a company of a similar name.

Also another factor to consider in all this for a company to have national or international in its name they would have had to demonstrate to companies house they are infact trading national or international which would suggest to me they have been around for a while.

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14 Jun 2010
Jacqueline Drury

The query isn't about using a 'trading as' pseudonym - it's about a rival company using a different limited company name to the one they registered.

You are jumping the gun by assuming that the course of action is litigation. The logical route is to go to the official bodies with the query - then the op's friend can choose his course of action armed with the facts.

One of the facts is that the rival company is breaking the law by displaying incorrect company name information on their website. It doesn't matter what you might want to trade as, you still have to display the correct limited company information on every page of your website.

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14 Jun 2010

Hello,

Your question is about Passing Off. The elements that must be shown to bring a successful claim for passing off are:

  1. that there is goodwill in the product/service of your friend;
  2. that the potential defendant has made a misrepresentation;
  3. that the misrepresentation will or is likely to lead members of the public to mistakenly believe that the potential defendant's goods/services are those of your friend; and
  4. that has led to your friend suffering damage.

The first tasks I would carry out are evidential in nature, namely to is to save each page of the potential defendant's website and collate any evidence available of actual confusion among members of the public (emails from existing clients asking for clarification or similar documentary evidence of confusion).

Naturally I cannot provide any actual advice on this matter without instructions and considering any papers fully, my comments above should be taken merely as general commentary on the area of law. If your friend has any specific queries or wants to talk the situation through they should feel free to give me a call or drop me an email.

Yours faithfully,

Barry Cullen of Acumen Business Law (barry.cullen@acumenbusinesslaw.co.uk / 08458 678 978)

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