How do you go about getting a name copyrighted so someone else cannot use it?

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How do you go about getting a name copyrighted so someone else cannot use it?

My non-profit organization has a name but we also have a second group that comes from the organization. Someone else is trying to use the second name. Can I legally stop them from doing this and, if so, how?

Asked on April 18, 2012 under Business Law, Tennessee

Answers:

Glenn M. Lyon, Esq. / MacGregor Lyon, LLC.

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Business names are not protected by copyright, but by trademark law.  While the answer can be quite complicated, generally, the first to use the name in commerce in a certain geographic area has the right to use the name (assuming the name qualifies for trademark protection in the first place).  Speak with a local intellectual property attorney to get a comprehensive answer.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Discuss the matter with an intellectual property (IP) attorney--if you have been using the second name in commerce (i.e. operating under it,  providing services under it, etc.), you may be able  to protect it as a trademark/service mark or tradename. That is, you may be able to assert your right, based on your use, to the name; send a cease-and-desist letter to the other person or group; file a legal action against them, for infringement or unfair competition, if they don't desist; and also register the name for greater protection in the future.  Much depends on the specific facts, including, most importantly, whether you have been using the name before this other person or group started using it--primacy or priority of use is very important in this area. You need experienced IP counsel to evaluate the situation for you, so you understand your rights and options.


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