DEAR HARRIETTE: A few months back, I decided to start my own business. It is similar to other businesses on the market, but I think I create the best products. It is an online hair bow shop with a name that has a pun. Admittedly, the name is similar to other businesses out there. However, I never thought this would be considered anything to worry about until my friend accused me of stealing my company name from another bow company! I thought long and hard about the name of my company, and it was my own idea, so I got very defensive. Just because the names are very similar doesn't mean I couldn't have thought of it myself! My friend took this as me admitting my guilt, and this falling out was a lot to deal with.
I am now thinking about potential copyright issues and my online reputation. Is it too late to change the name of my company? I don't know if this would damage future sales because customers will look for me and find the other company. -- Too Similar, St. Petersburg, Florida
DEAR TOO SIMILAR: What you need is a trademark attorney who can do a proper search for you to help you determine what makes sense. Regardless of your creative process, the search will reveal whether you are infringing upon copyright laws based on the similarity of your name to any others. It is wise to figure this out now before your business has established too large of a presence, so that if you need to change the name, it won't be too difficult.
While your friend's way of communicating concern about your company name rubbed you the wrong way, it may have been a blessing in disguise, as it woke you up to potentially serious challenges down the line.