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I am about to register a name for an Information Technology company in Nigeria, and it turns out a company with the same name already exists. However, this other company is registered in India. This company is also involved in Information Technology and goes by the name

[company name] Technologies.

I have decided to use the name:

[company name] ICT Technologies

What legal implications can this have? Seeing as both companies will operate in different geographic locations, is this really an issue?

  • You are referring to the names of these companies, which are registered with the respective Companies' register? If so, one has to distinguish these names from registered or unregistered trademarks. A company name is not necessarily also a trademark. Trademarks distinguish the origin of goods and services, a company name distinguishes a company from all other companies within its jurisdiction. – Singulaere Entitaet Mar 10 '17 at 13:47
  • I only used the Trademark tag because I couldn't find the more appropriate Company Name tag – ojonugwa ochalifu Mar 10 '17 at 13:49
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Companies with the same name can be registered in different jurisdictions

Company law is jurisdiction specific, so "ABC" can be a company in say, Australia, Malaysia and the UK. Most jurisdictions have required suffixes that identify that the name is a company and the type of company it is: if ABC were a private company in each of the jurisdictions it would be ABC Pty Ltd, ABC Pte Ltd and ABC Ltd respectively.

Each jurisdiction will have rules on what names can be used for a company. Nigeria's are here.

The only issue you may face is if the company you have identified's name is a trade mark in Nigeria, either by being a registered trade mark or that they have a sufficient Nigerian presence that your name would cause confusion between their goods and services and yours.

  • Interesting points.This company does not have a presence here. – ojonugwa ochalifu Mar 10 '17 at 22:10
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Can company name conflict arise between two companies in different geographic market?

Short, Simplified Answer

No

Longer, more in-depth answer

A company only owns a trademark in the jurisdiction it registers its trademarks in. If someone has registered a company in Nigeria, they don't have to worry about being sued by the indian company in a nigerian court, because the indian company only has a trademark in India. However, this also means that the nigerian company cannot use its trademark in India because the trademark there belongs to the indian company.

However, there is something called an "international trademark", under an agreement called the Madrid Protocol, which allows you to apply for a trademark in many jurisdictions at once. India is listed as one of the member countries in the protocol, meaning that if this Indian company successfully applied through this procedure, they might have trademarks in all the countries listed.

However again, Nigeria is not listed as one of the member countries in the Madrid Protocol, therefore they won't have a trademark there nonetheless. Meaning a firm with such a trademark in Nigeria won't have to worry, until they plan on using the trademark overseas.

NB: As pointed out in a comment, two companies operating with the same name side by side may still not be a problem (at least in the EU, I cannot vouch for indian/nigerian trademark law), so long as the company that doesn't own the trademarked name infringes on the registrant's trademark (causes confusion to buyers as to who is selling the product/service)

  • Exactly what I needed to hear – ojonugwa ochalifu Mar 10 '17 at 13:38
  • I disagree with your answer, @shazamo. You have to distinguish between the name of the company and a trademark. See my comment above to OP. Consequently, I think that where a foreign merely trades in another foreign country where a company with an identical or similar company name exists, there will be no issue. Where the company name is also a registered trademark, and the foreign company uses its company name also as a trademark, this would be an issue. See for e.g. Céline SARL v. Céline SA, Case C-17/06 in an EU context. – Singulaere Entitaet Mar 10 '17 at 13:56
  • Ahh I made the assumption that the question was talking about trademarking a company name, and whether the existence of the trademark in another jurisdiction affects the registrants rights in their country. But I do believe my answer still applies, I need only add that there will only be a legal issue if the foreign company infringes on the trademark of the registrant company – Shazamo Morebucks Mar 10 '17 at 14:05
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    Your addendum is even more confusing... – feetwet Mar 10 '17 at 19:33

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