Understanding the Law
October 22, 2010
What’s in a name?

A business name is the name which you would display on the front of your business so that it is always in the face of the public. If the name is not the true initial and surname of the owner, the law requires that the name be registered. If you inherit the business with your predecessor’s name, you do not have to register it.{{more} Registration must take place within 14 days after the start of business.

Your unincorporated firm would not have the benefit of a name registered in the company’s register, so this is the chance to distinguish your business from other businesses. The name could help you to gain quite a great deal of patronage and popularity. If you have set a standard for quality and reliability, your customers would associate the name with the same and when you introduce new products or expand, your fame (goodwill) would go with you. You need to protect that name because if someone else uses your name or a derivative of the same, they might be able to attract some of your customers.

You might wonder why you have to use a business name when you have already registered a name for your company. You would not have to register the name Mapp and Smith Ltd. if these are the owners’ names under which the company was registered and you are using for the business. You may, however, prefer to use a name that is versatile, effective and attractive. Suppose a company has the name of J.G. Mapp Ltd. This may be sufficient for a company that has reliable clientele/customers and does not have to attract the ordinary man on the street. This could also be a dull and uninspiring name for the business that deals with women’s clothing as opposed to a business with names such as “Exquisite”, “Fashion Conscious” or even “Fantastic.” These may no doubt attract customers as these names may indicate something about quality of goods and services rendered. These names may be registered in accordance with the law.

Registration of the name will give some degree of protection. A business name is sometimes use with a trade mark. A trade mark is any symbol, mark or name which is used to identify a product or a business but whereas a business name has local protection a trade mark has international protection. It may be registered in other countries and secure protection only in those countries where it is registered. It is more costly to register a trademark than a business name. I will look at trademark in another article.

Registration of business names is done at the Commerce and Intellectual Property Office and not at the Court House Annex as was previously done. Registration fee is $250.00. The basic information that is required includes the business name, the general nature of the business, the address of the principal place of business and the owners’ name and address. There must be a search of the Register of Business Names to make sure that the name is not already in use. The process is simple, and in a matter of two days you may have your certificate in hand and your business name emblazoned on your building.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com