Should I notify similar business to change their business name? What are my options?

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Should I notify similar business to change their business name? What are my options?

I have a business that I registered with the state of NJ May 2017. I have my business phone, fax, email, business account and logo. I never got a website. It has been a slow process getting my business up and running. Today 5/19/2018, I see that someone is operating a business in PA under the same name as mine in the same industry, pretty much providing the same services. I searched the PA state website and this business is not registered, I also searched the federal trade commission website and this business is not registered. This person who runs this ‘company’ seems to have worked in the same field as me and decided to start a medical billing business. I want to continue with my business but I don’t want any legal issues to arise. What do I do to continue and come out on top?

Asked on May 19, 2018 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can't do anything based on what you write:
1) State registration is state-by-state: i.e. registering in your state will prevent somene else from registering the same business name *in your state*, but your state has no authority over what happens in a neighboring state or what someone calls their business in another state.
2) You write that you have not really been conducting business to any significant extent: "it has been a slow process getting my business up and running." That means that--
a) it is very unlikely you could have a protectible trademark (and also, you do not mention having registered any trademark), since a trademark requires use of the name/mark/etc. in commerce--not merely preparing or planning to use it; and
b) since you have not been conducting business to any substantial degree, there would be no likelihood of customer confusion, and so grounds for any action under the Lanham Act for "unfair competition" (trying to "piggy-back" on your reputation and customer base).
Based on what you write, you do no appear to be able to stop someone in another state from using this name.


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