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Is it Illegal for Someone Else to Use My Business Name?

by laurahess on September 28, 2011

Q: When I ran my company’s name on Google, I found out that my competitor is using my business name to make sure that their name pops up when people search for my business! Is this illegal? They are using my name to make money and steal my potential customers! This is what their ad has: “www.[their business name].com/[my business name]” What do I do?

A: This could be considered Unfair Competition. California’s Unfair Competition Law is pretty broad and prohibits any unfair, fraudulent, or deceptive trade practices. It may also be considered trademark infringement if your competitor is deliberately trading off the goodwill associated with your name (i.e. deliberately attempting to create consumer confusion as to the source of its services). You may be able to get an injunction, which is a court order to prohibit the practice from occurring in the future. However, getting money damages may be difficult. The problem is that you would need to prove that a customer would have hired you but for the deceptive trade practice. If this is a new customer that had never hired you before, it is likely speculative whether that new client would have hired you.

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