QUESTION

Can I be sued if part of my business name has the same word as no another business?

Asked on Dec 02nd, 2018 on Business Law - California
More details to this question:
I am starting an online boutique and prior to purchasing my domain and establishing my name I searched alternate variations of my name I selected. It wasn’t until after I purchased my name that I realized a women’s retail had a similar name. For example (not the actual name) the business would be like Blankclothes.com and mine would be blankboutique.com. Is this something I can be sued for seeing as we both sell women’s clothes. I would like to mention that we do cater to a different consumer base. Mines is young and trendy and there’s is clearly mature women’s clothing. Also, there are other businesses with the word or title in their name but with different variations that do not specify in fashion retail.
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Answered on Dec 03rd, 2018 at 7:11 AM
The answer to "can I be sued?" is always yes.  Anybody can sue anybody for anything.  Whether you would prevail depends on the likielihood of your name causing customer confusion, i.e. leading customers to think that they are dealing with the other store with the similar name, in effect trading on its goodwill.  This in turn depends on a lot of factors, including how distinctive the name (i.e. is it something like "Smith" or "bargain", or is it something like "adurabi's" or "fragilistic") and how much has the name become associated in consumer's minds with the type of business being conducted.  The fact that you sell to somewhat different markets improves your case, but not as much as if one business was a restaurant and the other an auto parts store.

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