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Choosing a company name: not that simple from a legal perspective

Expanding business and forming a company in Germany is what many foreign entrepreneurs aspire to do. Germany remains a popular destination for expansion. Every time a company is formed, the question about its name arises.

Under German law, it is possible to have a company name entered in the Commercial Register. The company name is the name under which the merchant performs all transactions. The company name, however, is also a lot more. It determines the company’s individuality and sets it apart from its competitors. This is why it should be selected and checked carefully in advance.

Real names and made-up names may both be registered

The company name can be a real name, a made-up name or a mixed form. While German law offers entrepreneurs a relatively high level of freedom, it is obligatory to state a company’s legal form in the name.

Prior to creating an entry in the Commercial Register, the selected name will be reviewed by the district court as to whether it is free of third-party rights. This is not the case, for example, if another company with the same name is already registered in the Commercial Register. The entrepreneur then has to reflect upon a new company name and change all documents, such as the formation documents etc., which may turn out to be very expensive.

Always have the company name checked before registration

It is therefore important to have the company name checked prior to registering with regard to its distinctive character and its ability to be entered in the German Commercial Register. In this process, the Commercial Register is only one point of contact. Company names may also be protected by trademark law, if they are registered as a trademark with either the German Patent and Trade Mark Office or the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office).

If a company name is used that infringes third-party rights (whether as a result of an entry in the Commercial Register or as a trademark), the entrepreneur faces warnings, injunctions, and in some cases also high claims for damages. It therefore pays off to be careful and check the desired company name in advance. Our IP experts will be happy to assist with developing, protecting, and defending your company name and your intellectual property.

Continue reading:
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Professional legal and tax advice for company registration in Germany

Stefan Winheller

Attorney Stefan Winheller has specialized in tax law for about 20 years, especially in the areas of cryptocurrencies, foundations/nonprofits and international tax law.

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