Does it matter if other companies use the same name?

What if you make shoes and they service elevators? Is it OK then? What if the name is so common that, it seems, everyone is using it already anyway?

Can you name your company whatever you want? [Driebergen gas station, The Netherlands]

Can you name your company whatever you want? [Driebergen gas station, The Netherlands]

Let’s take “Amigo” here. It’s a fabulous name that has so much going for it in several languages:

  • Amigo = friend in Spanish
  • Ami = friend in French
  • Go = move forward, action (in English)

So something like “go forward friend” makes perfect sense for a gasoline station. What an excellent name for a transportation-related company. I know we had it on many naming lists over the years. But a quick Google search (I’m in Holland, so I get Dutch results) returns:

  • A shoe store
  • A Mexican restaurant in Rotterdam
  • AmiGO – Gene Ontology Consortium (I don’t even know what this is)
  • A hotel in Brussels
  • The tank (gas, petrol) station
  • A music band
  • A travel company

That’s just page one. The search found 531,000,000 results. Of course, most of those are not companies, but many are. So the big questions remains: “Can I call my company Amigo?”

The quick answer is, “Yes, you can call your company whatever you want.” The longer answer is, “It depends.”

It depends on:

  1. Are you in the same industry and country as another company using the same name?
  2. If so, you can still call you company the same name, but you might get a friendly letter from that other company asking you nicely to stop using “their” name.
  3. If you’re willing to battle with that company (and probably lose) in a trademark court case.
  4. If you’re feeling lucky and just want to go for it.
  5. If you think all of those other “Amigo” companies are going to go out of business and leave you with free reign of the name.
  6. If you truly can’t think of any other name for your company.

So the long answer is also, well, “No, you can’t.” If you’re looking for a legal battle because you don’t have anything better to do (like run your new company), sure, give it a go. But if not, maybe it’s time to think up a more creative name.