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Birth name does not always entitle trademark

09. februar 2018

One of the most persistent misconceptions about trademarks is that you always have the right to use your own name as trademark. It is far from the case.

"There is rarely a month without a story in the media about a person who is sued or convicted for using his or her own name as trademark for a product within a category where a trademark with a homonymous name already exists. In addition, the angle is often that you always have the right to use your own name, but you do not, unless you own the rights to exploit the name commercially," emphasises Partner and Head of Trademark Professional Development at Chas. Hude Thorbjørn Swanstrøm.

He explains that there are two classic scenarios in which the dispute usually arises:

"The first is when a person markets a product using his or her own name. The name of the person happens to be the same as a trademark for a product registered within the same category. It is not allowed to do this. Even if you are called Hansen, one of the most common Danish names, you are not allowed to market a spirit line called Hansen – as there is a rum called Hansen Rum. This also applies even if you avoid making rum," explains Thorbjørn Swanstrøm.

The second classic scenario is when a company is founded by a person who has previously sold a company or entered into liquidation with this company which bears the founder's name either wholly or partly.

"We have just witnessed the example of jewellery designer Mads Ziegler, who was co-founder of Kranz & Ziegler and which went into liquidation. He founded a new jewellery company called Mads Ziegler. However, the court found that he infringed the rights of the new owners of Kranz & Ziegler because of his very distinct name which is connected with jewellery. Therefore, it is important for entrepreneurs wishing to use their own name in the company name to protect the rights to their own name as best as possible," states Thorbjørn Swanstrøm.

If you have any doubts about how your own name can be used in connection with your company, Chas. Hude's attorneys are ready to guide you.

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