We’ve all heard about identify theft and associated fraud in our personal lives, with thieves hijacking your identity to take out loans and masquerading as someone else to commit nefarious deeds.
Not only can it happen to people, but to businesses too.
Obviously, a corporate credit card can be cloned as readily as a personal one, but there are unique mechanisms by which a company can be impersonated, some of which we talk about here.
Similar Company Name
There are checks and balances in terms of company names that can be registered, at the time of registration, but it isn’t foolproof. Once a business is incorporated, or has changed its name, there’s a 12 month window in which to file a complaint. If your brand is inherent in your company name (like Exonia in Exonia Consulting Limited) then you may well have a problem with a similar registration, like Exonia Consultancy Limited. Obviously, we have no problem with The Exonia Bowling Club Limited, which is a real life entity in Devon, but sometimes the lines can get very blurred.
Exploting such a ruse would enable, at best, someone to benefit from your brand and goodwill, or at worst, outright pass themselves off as you.
The Companies House system isn’t intuitive in checking up on this, but the good news is that, in our spare time, we have have developed a cloud based system that interrogates the Companies House database daily and looks for name changes and new formations of certain words and phrases, meaning that we are alerted to any prospect of this behaviour and can talk you through your options as and when it may happen.
This service comes with a very modest fee (even more modest for those of our customers on a Platinum Tariff) and we would say well worth it to safeguard against the risks.
Whilst a company registration with a similar name can be an honest mistake, or nothing to worry about, a hijack is very serious indeed – it’s outright fraud and can lead to irreparable damage. It’s where a malcontent cons Companies House into recognising them as a Director and allowing them to change the registered address and other details giving them a platform to take out loans in your name, perform bank transactions, and all manner of other very serious stuff.
The good news is that it is harder to do than it was, but if you let too many people know your Company Authentication Code, then the odds start to increase markedly. This code is like the keys to your car; keep it close and safe at all times. Exonia also monitors for changes at Companies House for ALL of our accounting practice customers as standard, courtesy of the facilities provided to us by our credit reference agency. Given that we also act formally, when requested, free of charge, as our client’s company secretary, we can also take immediate action as an officer of the company when such circumstances arise.
Intellectual Property Violations
That logo you’ve created, or name you’ve vested your sweat and blood into, is not really protected to any extent by common law. Having a company registered in that name, or a domain name registered doesn’t really count either.
Only by a formal trademark application (and subsequent award) do many rights to take action, certainly in any easy manner, arise. This has fringe benefits too; it allows the use of the (R) symbol (the unapproved use of which is itself an offence) which gives an air of maturity, size and scale about your business too. It also means you can licence (or sell) your brand and the trademark makes what you are licencing (or selling) tangible and easier to contract with a third party. Most of all, it guards against fraud by putting up barriers to passing off your brand.
It’s not for everyone, and the costs increase if you want more than UK protection, but Exonia has successfully trademarked a number of marques for several of its customers and would recommend anyone that perceives their logo or company or product names to have value to give it serious thought. Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation – discounts on fees are, as ever, available to Platinum Tariff customers. Whilst we don’t like to name drop, we also have unique access to one of the UK’s leading intellectual property firms to back up our trademark work, and better yet, if any of our customers ever want to explore patents – we have you covered there too.
If anything here has piqued your interest, do feel to reach out to us. Unlike some of our city-centre LLP competitors, we won’t start the billing clock just because you’ve a simple query!