When we were thinking of a name for our start-up, using common logic we wanted the name to reflect our line of business and we fondly named our start-up StayVista. After sometime, we wondered whether this name would create trouble. StayVista sounded very similar to Stay Zilla another competitor in the same segment. We then changed our company name to Vista Rooms. We still get comparisons with Vistara. With the recent controversy of Groffr suing Grofers India for “passing off” and using a similar sounding name to confuse consumers, it brings us to the age old question. What’s in a name? , Well Shakespeare would have begged to differ to our logic but increasingly companies, especially start-up’s are looking at how they name the company in a serious manner. Obvious similarities with other brand names are being avoided and brands are ensuring that they are legally protected.
Recently Vistara Airliness (TATA SIA) was sued by Vistara Voyages (India) to the tune of 1 Cr. over the use of their name Vistara for their joint venture. Vistara Voyages claimed that it was in the travel business since 2008 and have extensively advertised the trademark Vistara in India and internationally for its clients. The high court had ruled in favour of Vistara Airlines, since the airlines had not commenced any flights to Bangalore where Vistara Voyages is located. However, this has caused damages to the brand which is just finding its feet in the country.
So how do you protect your name, and things you should remember while choosing a name:
1. Think thoroughly on the name: Name matters and it is perhaps the most important aspect of a company. The name of your company represents what you are, what you represent, what you offer, values, vision, mission and people. So spend time on giving due thought on the name. There is a story about Steve Jobs naming his company Apple simply because he came back from an apple farm. Fortunately for him, his company grew and today Apple is one of the leading brands in the world
2. Pick a name that reflects your business: Simply put if you are a day care unit and you call your company AutoWays, that would never fly. The name should reflect your business, this would help bring in customer awareness. If Coca Cola had called themselves something else, nobody would have associated them with cola, and perhaps they may not have been a cola giant today. Also, using your brand name everywhere goes a long way in ensuring people connect your brand and the business you are in. This will again go a long way in fighting infringers who may sue you for using this name.
3. Check for duplicates: This doesn’t necessarily apply to counting notes alone. It would make a lot of sense to check if there are any other brands with the same name. It could be in a different segment, but if you want your brand to stand out and not get lost in a crowd it would make a lot of sense to have a unique name
4. Registration/ Trademarking / IPR: This is the legal protection you can go for protecting your company name. Nowadays it has become easier for someone to register their company with websites like searchvakil.com, where everything can be done online.
Author: Amit Damani (Co-founder of Vista Rooms, a network of 600+ branded stays across 60+ cities in India)
Amit Damani, 27, had graduated in Economics and International Studies from the Northwestern University, U.S.A. Prior to his entrepreneurial venture, he has been a consultant at Dalberg Global Development Advisors and has worked with the Chinese and German government ministries, IFC and World Bank on socio-economic development projects that primarily included market entry, strategy building and cost optimization in several countries such as India, China and Afghanistan.
Amit was raised in a family where every meal at the dinner table would be complimented with entrepreneurial discussions/news, which groomed his acute interest into entrepreneurship. During his time in China, he experienced standardized amenities and services across all budget hotels, which inspired him to start something similar in India.