WeWork vs. UrWork
A recently filed lawsuit highlights the importance of selecting a business name which does not infringe on the trademark rights of another business.
WeWork is an American shared-office provider valued at $20 billion.
UrWork is a Chinese competitor, which opens its U.S. operations this month. It is valued at $1.2 billion.
WeWork has now sued UrWork, arguing that the names are “deceptively similar” and that the public may be confused over whether the companies are connected in any way. See http://fortune.com/2017/09/12/wework-sues-urwork/
Importance of Choosing a Proper Name
If a court now requires UrWork to change its name, it will be very costly to the company and a blow to its reputation. Simply enduring the time and cost of litigation over this issue is a big deal and distraction. UrWork may also face serious financial penalties for trademark infringement.
Start-ups therefore should be careful when selecting names to ensure no other business’s trademark or other intellectual property rights are infringed upon. Even more, there is no excuse under the law if a business owner was simply unaware of the other similarly-named business.
Steps to Take When Selecting a Business Name
A good lawyer can assist the client in conducting a search of existing names to determine how protectable a name or trademark will be. There are subscription-only databases available to conduct a thorough search. Formal trademark registration with the company’s state of residence, and with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are also protections one can take. And, if the business may eventually expand internationally, then it is advisable to conduct an international search, as well, and again at the beginning stages prior to selecting a business name, and then also register in such foreign countries. Even where no existing business name conflicts with your business, there have been many instances where someone will watch as your business becomes successful, then register your business name in that foreign country, only to hold onto the registration and sell it at high cost or instead relinquish it after litigation, in the very least delaying your business’s entry into that country.
Importantly, the acceptance of a name by the secretary of state for the creation of a company is considered completely separate from whether such name infringes on another company’s rights. And, of course it is important to check that the domain or website with the company’s name is available to purchase for a reasonable sum.
These, and other steps, are important for ensuring that the business you will be working hard to build will be protected in the future.
Kimura London LLP advises business owners on securing their trademark and other intellectual property rights, and also works closely with specialist intellectual property attorneys to provide the best advice to its clients. We also zealously represent businesses that have disputes or litigation regarding their business name or trademark.