OneCheck for businesses a welcome initiative: lawyer

Sally Peart
Sally Peart
Fledging New Zealand businesses being able to secure their company domain name and trademark from one search is a welcome development, Dunedin intellectual property lawyer Sally Peart says.

"From my perspective, the best thing about the tool is that it will focus on new businesses and marketing firms advising them on the necessity to check for trade market availability as well as company name and domain name." Nine times out of 10, the domain name would be chosen and a company name reserved but the trademark angle was completely overlooked, Ms Peart, a partner with Marks and Worth, said.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce launched the OneCheck service on Tuesday.

Until now, people had to search three different websites to check the availability of their new business name.

The new product was one of the steps towards the Government's planned one-stop online shop for businesses from the Better Public Services initiative.

"This new online search tool integrates, refines and improves current government services to businesses.

"The importance of this cannot be underestimated when you consider that 90% of businesses have contact with one or more government agencies at least once a year," he said.

Ms Peart said that while registration of a company name gave someone exact rights to that name as a company, it did not give rights in relation to something which was similar but not the same. The same was true of domain name registration.

The other issue with domain name registrations was that while the domain name might be available, there might be an existing trademark or business using that mark in an unregistered manner which had prior rights. In that case, registration of a company name and domain name in itself did not create any guarantee that someone could use that name with impunity, she said.

"In contrast, a registered trademark will enable you to prevent other businesses from using your trademark as a domain name or company name. In many cases, this can even result in the domain name being transferred to the owner of the trademark."

However, the OneCheck system should not be considered a replacement for getting specialist advice on registrability of a trademark or whether a company or domain name would infringe anyone else's existing rights, Ms Peart said.

OneCheck could only give a result which said whether or not any other party had the specific name, not whether the trademark was "confusingly similar" to another mark - or in itself inherently registerable.

Trademarks which were overly descriptive or lacked distinctiveness would not be registerable even if available unless there was a history of use which overcame lack of inherent distinctiveness, she said.



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