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Merely Incorporating A Name Will Not Preserve It From Being Used By Another Fellow

Merely Incorporating A Name Will Not Preserve It From Being Used By Another Fellow

There is this general misconception amongst business owners and Chief executive officers of companies that incorporation or registration of their businesses with the Corporate Affairs Commission reserves the business or company name exclusively for their use. To them, once they have registered or incorporated the business name with the Corporate Affairs Commission, the name of the business becomes reserved exclusively for their use and not to be used by another person. 

I am sorry to let you know that this is not the case neither is it the practice or the law: An incorporated name that was not trademarked by the business owner can still be used or even trademarked by another fellow. The other fellow may only be prohibited from incorporating a business using the same name already been incorporated by another business but the other fellow is at liberty to use the name for some other purposes. 

For instance, if Tekedia Institute is merely incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria and the name Tekedia was not trademarked, another person is at liberty to trademark the name “Tekedia” for their use. 

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In fact, it is the law that a trademarked name takes priority over an incorporated name; this is to say that another fellow who has trademarked Tekedia can write to the Corporate Affairs Commission demanding them to ask Tekedia institute to change their name so as not to be in conflict with their trademarked name. This is the practice and there is a judicial precedent to this effect. 

In the most recent case of Sanofi v Sanofi Nigeria Enterprise & Ors, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the Corporate Affairs Commission to de-register a company using a name that was trademarked by another company thereby infringing on the trademarked name.

In that case, a French pharmaceutical company trademarked the name Sanofi, they found out that there are some Nigerian companies incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission with the name SANOFI Integrated Services Limited, SANOFI Nigeria Enterprises Limited, and SANOFI Nigerian Enterprise. The French company wrote to the Corporate Affairs Commission notifying them that they already trademarked the name “Sanofi” and incorporating a company with the name Sanofi or anything similar is an infringement of their trademark. 

They requested the corporate affairs commission to ask those companies to therefore change their names to something else. The companies refused to change their names and the French pharmaceutical company took those companies to court for trademark infringement. 

The court held in their favor and mandated the Corporate Affairs Commission to quickly de-register the other companies infringing on the trademarked name or that those companies should change their names. 

By this recent judgment of the court, it is a wake-up call to business and company owners to take further steps in trademarking the names of their businesses and companies after incorporating it so as not to lose the name to another fellow who has trademarked it before them. 

The take home from this is that incorporating a company or business does not reserve that name exclusively from being used by other fellows; it is trademarking of a name that reserves it exclusively from being used by other fellows. 

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