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QUESTION: I have an established retail store that has been open in NC for several years. In the past year, 2 other stores have opened up & are selling extremely similar merchandise as my store does with the exact same name as my company. The only difference, is that one of the stores added 1 letter to the name. One of these stores in in Tennessee, & the other store is in a city only 2 hours away from mine where I already had an established customer base long before it was opened. Can I prevent these shops from using my company name? The name is not yet trademarked, but I plan on filing for a trademark.

ANSWER: Trademarks seek to prevent a likelihood of confusion. If you do not do business in Tennessee, there may be no likelihood of confusion and, therefore, you may not be able to prevent the use of “your” name there. However, even if you do not have registered trademark, you may be able to stop the use of your name in the city two hours from you.