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I'd like to know if a former business partner can sue me for…

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I'd like to know if a former business partner can sue me for using the name of the business. We parted ways prior to the business getting started and I am using a totally different concept. However I asked if via email if I could use the name and they said yes. Later I found out that they were going around telling people that I stole the name of the business, which is not true. What complicates things further is that we used to date and we are connected through inlaws.

Lawyer's Assistant: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

California

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?

No. I wasn't too concern about it until they began telling family members that I stole the name. AFTER they told me through the emailed letter that I could still use the name. I am the one that paid for the website, the logo, etc.

Submitted: 9 months ago.Category: Legal
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Answered in 1 minute by:
9/16/2017
Lawyer: Roy Hadavi,
 replied 9 months ago
Roy Hadavi
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 1,296
Experience: Attorney at Law Offices of Rosenstein & Associates
Verified

Hi Karen. My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed California attorney with extensive business law experience. I would be happy to provide assistance. Please give me a moment to formulate a response. Also, please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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Customer reply replied 9 months ago
Ok, but my name isn't Karen. Hopefully you have the right question
Lawyer: Roy Hadavi,
 replied 9 months ago

No problem For some reason the name at the top of the question is listed as "Karen". My apologies. To confirm, this question is in regards ***** ***** name for a business dispute/theft claim?

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Customer reply replied 9 months ago
Not a theft claim, it is about a business name.
Lawyer: Roy Hadavi,
 replied 9 months ago

That is what I meant theft of the name of a business. You had written that your former partner is claiming that you stole the business name. I am currently typing up the response and will have it over to you shortly.

Again, sorry about the confusion with your name. That is what the system listed it as, which is odd.

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Customer reply replied 9 months ago
Oh ok, got it. Yes, that is correct. After receiving in writing from them that I could use the name, with a different concept for the business, they were telling relatives that I stole the name. In addition to that I even offered for them to purchase the website from me, they refused and I offered them a fee or residual (their choice) for allowing me to use the name, they refused that as well. This was all done via email.
Lawyer: Roy Hadavi,
 replied 9 months ago

Just to get it out of the way: can they sue you? Yes. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the side of the case that you are on), in the United States individuals have the ability to sue each other, regardless of whether the case has merit.

But, I presume that you are actually asking, does the former partner's claim have merit?

Likely not. You have indicated that the former partner gave written consent to the use of the name after the dissolution of the partnership. An email is a legally binding consent. The former partner may attempt to claim that it was not him/her that wrote the email, but that is a pretty weak argument on their part.

In addition, you have indicated that you paid for all aspects of the use of the name. This would indicate that you have sole ownership of the name.

There are a few things that you can do to increase the strength of your claim to ownership of the name:

  • USPTO Registration: You may want to register the name and the logo with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This will provide proof in any dispute that you are the owner of the trademarked name. You have indicated that there is a name and logo associated with your business. For optimal protection, you will want to submit 2 separate applications, one for the name and one for the logo. The cost of registration is $225 per class per application. The classes are varied, but usually one class per application should be sufficient.
  • Fictitious Business Name Registration: A fictitious business name is ***** ***** as a "doing business as" or a "dba". This is a registration that can be done with the county and provides added protection for the name. Different counties have different fees for this registration, but you can find the application for your county by doing a search online for "fictitious business name registration", along with the name of your county.
  • Corporation or LLC Registration: If your business is a corporation or an LLC, make sure that the name of the officers or members/managers registered with the California Secretary of State is your name only and does not include your former partner's name. If you are not incorporated/organized, you should consider one of these two options, as it will provide additional proof for your claim that you are the owner of the name and will also provide additional protection for your personal assets.

Thank you so much for allowing me to help you with your question. I have done my best to provide information which fully addresses your question. If you have any follow-up or clarification questions, please ask! There is no additional fee. If I have fully answered your question(s) to your satisfaction, I would appreciate you rating my service (hopefully Excellent/5 stars!) at the top of the screen. Otherwise, I receive no credit for assisting you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time to provide me a positive rating! A BONUS is also appreciated if you feel I've earned one today.

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Customer reply replied 9 months ago
Thank you!
Lawyer: Roy Hadavi,
 replied 9 months ago

If you need assistance with completing any of these matters, I have an attorney I can refer you to.

Did you have any follow-up questions or need me to clarify anything? If not, please do not forget to rate my services at the top of the page (hopefully 5 stars), otherwise I get no credit for helping you today.

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