Can you use the name of a business thats no longer in business?

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Can you use the name of a business thats no longer in business?

I have wrote a fictional book named after a company
that is no longer in business. Is this legal or is
copyright still involved?

Asked on February 3, 2019 under Business Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Trademark rights in a name (this would be a matter of trademark law, not copyright) do not necessarily go away when a business goes out of business--they often do, especially with smaller or less-established or less-valuable businesses, where the name has no instrinsic value, but if the business was large enough, old enough, etc. that the name/brand may have a value outside of the business itself, it's possible that someone is maintaining the rights in the name. You can check on the U.S. Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) website to see if there is still any active trademark in the name.
If there is no active mark, you are most likely ok unless the name was closely associated with a family  (e.g. it was a family name), in which case, they could possibly challenge your use (e.g. sue) you on one or both of the following bases:
1) You are using their family name without permission for your commercial benefit (assuming you sell, etc.) the book; or
2) If anything in the book is negative about that name or family, possibly based on defamation.
So there are some risks to using a real business's name. You may be best off making up a new name.
 


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