Business name help
January 2, 2013 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Business Names: How similar is too similar?

I am training as birth and postpartum doula and later as a childbirth educator. I am in the process of creating my brand identity and marketing, but I'm stuck at the most basic name!

I want an overall business name/theme that I can then tie in to various aspects of my business and life. Right now I am in love with the business name "Blissful Family" which I could then use as "Blissful Family Doula" and expand with "Blissful Family Education", "Blissful Family Yoga", etc.

Problem: There is already a doula business in my city named "Ottawa Bliss Doula" Is this too similar? Googling shows that Bliss is a word used A LOT by doulas. I don't care about not being original but I don't want to step on toes, legally or ethically.

If it is too close, can you help me come up with some other ideas? I really want to avoid anything cheesy, cutesy, or earthy/granola.
posted by Abbril to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am not a legal expert, but if "bliss" is used a lot in the business, then Blissful Family is not too close to "Ottawa Bliss Doula". To me, the "Family" separates it from "Ottawa" in a way that would be hard to mistake.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:17 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

FWIW, when I hear "Blissful" I think religious. The OP appears to be in Canada - so US based explanations of the law may not apply here.
posted by COD at 11:22 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

It varies based on your locality (sounds like you're in Canada) but in the US, it's based on "likelihood of confusion." That is, would an ordinary person, hearing your business's name, be confused about the origin of the products or services it offers. Canada should be fairly similar on this, I'd imagine, but check with a local IP lawyer.

It does not sound to me like your proposed name would be confusing, but I am not a laywer. I would still advise avoiding words used by lots of other businesses of your type. Not only because people can sue you for any reason (even if they eventually lose, it can still be a time-consuming, money-eating, stressful experience for you to defend one) but because you want to distinguish your business as much as possible from the competition. If "bliss" is used a lot for doula businesses, then you should find something more unique because it'll make it easier to advertise.

I would also suggest not using the word "doula" since you say you want to avoid earthy/granola connotations. Also, a fair number of people who might otherwise be interested in your services might not know the word. Perhaps this is different in Canada, though.
posted by kindall at 11:27 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not a lawyer or your lawyer, but I know people who have been through this and it didn't end well.

I would err on the super cautious side of these things. Even if you have a legal case that the name is different enough to not be confused, someone with way more money than you can still make your life suck.

It doesn't matter who's in Ottawa with what name. I'm pretty sure anyone in Canada could bring something against you, so check nationally. There's a database for business names that you can check but the name escapes me now.

This is one of those things were it's worth paying a lawyer a few hundred dollars if you have any doubts.
posted by dripdripdrop at 11:29 AM on January 2, 2013

A useful rule of thumb would be to ask yourself whether a reasonable person could possibly confuse your business with another based on their names. I think for the example you listed, there is very little chance that a reasonable person would confuse the two.
posted by gregor-e at 11:32 AM on January 2, 2013

I may be confused by the two. If I were seeking a referral in your area and an acquaintance told me "Blissful Family" was the doula they used, I could very well end up at "Ottawa Bliss Doula" through my Internet search. I think a lot of people might say "I used Abbril with Bliss... something" since the business name probably isn't as important as the person helping them get the baby out. Could you use your name as part of the business?
posted by coolsara at 11:37 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I remember my corporate law correctly, the "likelihood of confusion" test is right. Same business, same city, same adjective -- probably lends itself to confusion.

You can do a corporate name search (through 'Dye & Durham', though they may have rebranded). They would send you a list of similar names already in use, and the search is super sensitive.

It's up to you and your legal counsel to fully evaluate the risks involved.

And to echo what was stated above -- I had no idea what a 'doula' was. Certainly, I'd be looking for 'childbirth' or some such in the yellow pages. Isn't as fancy, I know...
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2013

If you want to avoid anything cheesy, earthy, granola-y, I respectfully suggest you don't use the word "Blissful" at all, regardless of the issue with the other business name.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:53 AM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think only a lawyer can advise you on the legal aspects. As someone who works in marketing, I would recommend that you try for something more original. You don't want people to confuse your company with another's, regardless of legality. I worked for a company whose name was the industry's equivalent of The Phone Company (in an industry that suffers from a lot of brand confusion to begin with) and I think that it was bad for business.
posted by radioamy at 1:46 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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