I got a panicked call the other day from a new client – another company was using her company’s name and neither the North Carolina Secretary of State nor the state Attorney General would help her. She could not understand why the Secretary of State would let someone name their business something that was virtually identical to hers. Some of her customers called in confusion; others likely do not realize the difference and are being diverted to the other company.
What she had protected was her trade name. What was being infringed was her trademark. Many entrepreneurs don’t understand the difference, and if they don’t consult with a trademark attorney, valuable intellectual property can be left unprotected.
A trade name is the company name that is registered with the Secretary of State. To be registered, the name has to be different (by as little as one character) from existing company names. That is why we can have all the following company names in the North Carolina Secretary of State database...
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