How close can the name of a new brandbe to an existing product’s name?

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How close can the name of a new brandbe to an existing product’s name?

If “Italian Oil” is an existing brand for olive oil, do I have the right to start a new brand called: “Italian Olive Oil”?

Asked on July 25, 2011 New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You probably *can* do this, assuming that the product you are selling is, in fact, olive oil either from Italy or in the Italian style (assuming, as a non-chef, that there is such a thing as an Italian "style" for this) or intended for use with Italian food. The reason is, if any of the above is true, the name you have selected is a descriptive name--it describes what your product is. Descriptive names cannot be trademarked, but nor can someone else prevent you from using them.

Note that while a descriptive name--the words themselves--cannot be trademarked, a logo incorporating those words can be. So don't copy the graphic look of the other brand, and come up with a distinctive look for your own product so you can product that.


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