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Protecting Your Corporate Name

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Imagine this: you want to sell widgets, and you've chosen the perfect name for your brand new widget business. You've made the name original and yet homey, comfortable to say, hard to forget, and you've checked databases everywhere to make sure that nobody else thought of it first. You've invested vast sums of money in marketing materials and storefront signs that include your great new name. Best of all, you've already impressed some new widget customers with your amazing services, and they are spreading the word that your business-yes, the one with your fabulously unique name-is the place to go for all their widget needs, bar none. You love your new name. Then picture this: shortly after your widget shop opens for business, you learn that a guy two blocks over is using the same name, for a strikingly similar widget business.

That's your name hanging in his window, by God! Customers are getting confused. Your business begins to drop off, and you suspect the other widget guy is getting the customers who were looking for you. Is this nightmare scenario possible? Sadly, yes-but only if you don't know how to protect your corporate name adequately. The first thing a new business owner must do is register the name of the new company.

The procedure for registration involves some straightforward paperwork for submission to the Companies Office of Jamaica, along with a small fee. The Companies Office of Jamaica will not register two businesses with the same name, so this procedure will prevent later companies from incorporating under your corporate name. Registration with the Companies Office of Jamaica will also legitimize the corporate identity of your business as a legal entity separate from its founders. It will provide evidence to demonstrate that the name is being used in commerce when you next register the name as a trademark. It is necessary to register the name as a trademark or service mark with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office to provide greater protection.

Registering your new business name with the JIPO will give public notice of your claim to the name as a trademark, and invokes the jurisdiction of the courts in protecting the name. An application may be obtained online at the JIPO website to register a new business name as a trademark. Be aware that the processing of your application may take more than a year, so this application should be filed as soon as possible to begin the process. Status of your application may be checked online.

When Jamaica becomes a signatory to the Madrid Protocol trademark holders in Jamaica will enjoy automatic protection in countries who are signatories to this agreement.

You do not need to wait until your trademark is nationally registered to begin protecting your right to it, however. When using your business name on marketing materials or other written matter, you can demonstrate your claim to the name as a trademark by adding a small 'TM' at the end of the word. 

This practice provides notice to those who see the written materials that you consider the name to be proprietary and should not be 'borrowed' by others. After you receive national registration of the business name as a trademark, however, it will receive the greatest possible protection, and you may demonstrate this by including an R in a circle, ' ®,' at the end of your business name.

Next comes the business of 'policing' your trademark. These activities involve online research and investigation within your industry to determine whether others are using your trademarked business name in the same or similar business that might cause customer confusion as to your business identity. In that event, a timely letter often dissuades the newcomer from using the business name. If a letter is ineffective, the matter may be resolved through litigation.

The founding of a new business is a busy time, but it is necessary to begin as quickly as possible to protect the new business name against infringement. In this way, it is possible to prevent customer confusion and retain all of the customer goodwill that they have come to associate with your company's name.

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