Here's a bit of an interesting scenario (real names withheld to protect and maintain privacy):
I got an email yesterday from Person A who had received a cease and desist letter from Company B. Person A had named their business fairly recently, while Company B had been in business for well over five years using the same name. Both are working in the same industry. Person A had secured the .org domain name, while Company B owned the primary .com domain name.
Company B's email was not so much a "cease and desist" as much as it was a very kind email asking Person A to reconsider the name considering the equity and trademark work that Company B had already done. Company B also, rightly, stated that they would need to defend all infringements on their trademark (a truism we know all too well in Marketing). From a legal standpoint, if a company does not defend their trademarks legally, it dilutes any and all ability to do so as time goes by.
Person A wanted to know how they should handle it.
Here was my response:
"If you did know that the .com was taken, and had done a basic search to see that the name you were thinking about using was the same as this company, then they are right.
I would also say that if you didn't do that... you probably should have... and the other company is right.
They are asking you nicely to respect the fact that they have been running a business using the same name in the same industry for some time.
The question is: why did you name your company by the same name?"
It seems simple enough, but I am constantly amazed at how few Businesses use the existing (and free) channels to do basic and preliminary leg work to see who else is out there and what they're doing.
We all need to be choosing our names wisely. We all need to run every name we're thinking of using (including mis-spellings and different versions) through the Search Engines. It's no longer "good enough" to just register a business in your local state or province. Everything is global when it hits the Web (and everything hits the Web), so be smart, be kind and be online. The above scenario was easily avoidable, but now it's sucking the time and energy out of two Entrepreneurs who should be putting all of their energy against building their business instead.
Nomenclature is a function of Marketing. Maybe legal isn't, but that doesn't preclude any of us from doing some preliminary leg work.
Always be Googling.