The Company Names Adjudicator has made its first orders under section 69 Companies Act 2006 (which came into force on 1 October 2008) requiring companies to change their name.
The new legislation is aimed at preventing opportunistic or speculative company name registrations by third parties wishing to trade on another company's branding success or to extract money from the brand owner.
The Coca Cola Company brought one of the first applications against a new company registered in February 2008 with the name Coke Cola Limited. Coke Cola was ordered to change its name within prescribed time limits and, if it fails to do so, the adjudicator will choose and enforce a new name for it. Similarly, in applications brought by Zurich Insurance Company, companies called Zurich Financial Special Risk Limited and Zurich Risk Transfer Limited have been ordered to change their names within one month.
The process will provide an additional avenue of attack, in addition to possible actions for breach of trade marks and passing off, for companies seeking to protect their brand and goodwill. In the longer term, this could prove to be a speedier and more cost effective means of resolving such problems.