Q. I recently started marketing my own poetry on bookmarks and plaques in local bookstores. I have chosen a name for the line, but how can I find out if someone else is using the same name? If I discover that someone else is using the same name, do I have to change mine? Is there any way I can keep others from using the name I've chosen?
A. Names cannot be copyrighted, so there is no legal problem with using the same name. It's like having the same name as another author—only a problem of identification. However, if there is another company that has been using the same name and it is well known, they may feel you are infringing on their identity, so they can take legal action to have you change yours. That would be especially true if they were marketing the same kinds of products you are. If that should happen (and it is unlikely since you are only marketing locally), then you would need legal advice. Before finalizing a name for your products, it's a good idea to do a Google or similar search to see if the name comes up. You are only expected to make a reasonable search to see if anyone else is using the name. This difficulty in tracking down the same or similar names is the reason titles cannot be copyrighted. It would be impossible to determine positively that no one else is using the same name. It makes sense to do a reasonable search, because you will also want to avoid the confusion in marketing that would result in having the same name as another company. For all the same reasons, you will not be able to prevent someone else from using the name you choose.