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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I owned a small business with a specific name, the lease on

Customer Question

I owned a small business with a specific name, the lease on the premises expired last year. i am in the process of finding a new premises and re-opening with the same name.
A couple of months ago a national chain with the same name has opened in the same time, is there anything i can do about this?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
But this is a national chain, which has opened up, did it have the name before you did?
Please explain what you mean when you said that they've opened up in the same time.
What you want to know about this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

My business was called Bills Cafe, and has been in Eastbourne with that name for over 20 years, i bought the business in 2005.

Also in Lewes was a greengrocers called Bills, he expanded and opened a cafe beside the existing business. The original owner was called Bill Collinson.

In 2007 he sold out to Richard Caring the owner of several food chain establishments, including Belgo, Strada, Le Caprice and The Ivy.

They have now expanded the chain to 14 establishments with at least another 3 opening this year.

I still hold bank accounts and trade cards etc in the name of Bills Cafe, so what i need to know are they allowed to open an establishment in the same town as me, without my permission or some form of recompense,.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for the reply.
I'm still not clear exactly what they are doing. Are they opening a business called Bills Cafe in the same town?
Do you think that they are trying to trade off the back of your name and reputation?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes they have already opened a cafe of the same name a couple of months ago.

Can't say if they are trying to trade off the back of my business, as they originally a small business in another town in the same county, but somebody bought that name and decided on a fast expansion using the same name. But i'm wondering in the same way i couldn't go to London and open a chain called Harrods, Selfridges, or ***** *****, even if any of these were my name.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
The difficulty you're going to have is that you are not trading and you are going to have to show that you have traded for 20 years and the you are simply having a break while you look for new premises and that they are using your name because it is well-established.
As they started this business after you had given up it weakens your position although if you built an enviable reputation you may be able to argue that they have chosen your name to live off the back of your reputation.
Whether you could prove that is likely to come down to how substantial your business was, how substantial their business is, what proof they have about the choice of name being the same in the other town and whether they are attempting to trade off the back of you.
However even if you are satisfied that they have chosen this name because of your enviable reputation, applying for an injunction to make them change the name is ***** ***** to be cheap and it is most unlikely that you would get a solicitor to deal with it on a no win no fee basis although if your court application is successful you would generally recover any legal costs you incurred in bringing the litigation.
As a start, you can threaten the court application preferably using solicitors but if you have to get to the stage of issuing proceedings, you need to make sure that you are prepared to follow it through because if you withdraw after issuing proceedings, they can still claim legal costs from you.
Unfortunately, in many cases like this the successful outcome is dependent on who has the deepest pockets.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo

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