Intel continue to be the organisation most frequently using the UK Company Names Tribunal. The recently released figures for 2014/15 show they are launching more than double the number of challenges through the tribunal than their nearest rival.
The top ten companies bringing challenges to The Company Name Tribunal in 2014/15 were:
|Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and CIBC World Markets Plc||9|
|Guardian Financial Services Holding UK Limited||6|
|International Business Machines Corporation||5|
|Allianz Insurance Plc||4|
|Accenture Global Services Limited||3|
|Lego Juris A/S & Lego Company Limited||3|
|Mischon De Reya||3|
The Company Name Tribunal was set up to stop IP trolls from registering company names similar to established businesses in the hopes of extracting money. The Tribunal state their aim as:
We deal with complaints about cases where a company name is registered for the primary purpose of preventing someone else with legitimate interest from registering it, or demanding payment from them to release it.
In most cases the Tribunal has dealt with in the last year the names being challenged have been direct copies of existing businesses. So, for instance, Moonpig.com were able to challenge a new company which has been registered as ‘Moonpig Retail Ltd’ and Virgin were able to challenge a new company which had been registered as ‘Virgin Investment Limited’.
The tribunal is not supposed to challenge trading businesses who have registered a name which overlaps with an existing company. As they state on their website. “an application to the Tribunal is not an alternative to an action for passing-off or trade mark infringement”, which would be the normal routes to take for potentially overlapping business names.
Some of the successful challenges seem to push this boundary, so for example Reebok successfully challenged a company called ‘Rebok’. Intel were able to challenge companies with names including ‘Leadship Intel Limited’, ‘Webintel Ltd’ and ‘Wintel Contact Limited’. While all of these names do include ‘intel’ in them somewhere they don’t look like company names which have been registered with the express intent of demanding money from Intel.
The reality is that we don’t know the reason why most of the challenged companies were registered as the vast majority of cases brought to The Company Names Tribunal go undefended. Where the case is undefended the established company challenging a new company name automatically wins and the new company is forced to change its name (and is usually fined as well). Only 8.7% of cases brought to the Company Names Tribunal were defended but of these 43% were either able to keep their name or come to an agreement. (Intel who are the most prolific user of the Tribunal did not have any challenges defended in 2014/15 and so have automatically won every time).
The number of challenges being brought to the Company Names Tribunal demonstrates why you need to be aware of intellectual property when forming a limited company. Companies House will happily let you register a company name which infringes trademarks and other intellectual property and opens you up to being challenged in a variety of ways. In most cases this can be avoided by doing some basic research (e.g. searching for your chosen company name on Google to see what comes up). If someone else is already using your chosen company name then you may still be able to use it but you need to check before registering the company. If not you can easily waste a lot of money on fines and legal fees.
If you want to know whether your Company Name will be allowed we can do a trademark search for you. Give us a call on 01245 492777 to find out more.