Corporation Naming: You Can’t Dodge A Bullet!

“Corporations are people, my friend” – famous words from a politician in the last presidential election. And so they are. However, while you are allowed to name your first born exactly what you want (at risk of emancipation proceedings when they turn into teenagers!), naming corporations needs a little more thought. If your name is Joe Schmoe, are you allowed to name your business Joe’s Ice-cream Parlor? The answer is – yes, most of the time.

In 1904, the courts ruled that J.S. Dodge, who created “the J.S. Dodge Company” was not allowed to use his name. J.S. Dodge in 1894 was one of the incorporators of Dodge Stationary Company, which conducted business under the name of “Dodge’s.” He sold the company in 1900. On January 2, 1901, J.S. Dodge then created “the J.S. Dodge Company,” and moved to the same block. The court ruled that while J.S. Dodge, the person, has the right to conduct business in his own name, he does not give the right to use his name for a corporation to engage in a business which had been conducted by another corporation under a similar name.

The case is Dodge Stationary Co. v. Dodge, 145 Cal.480 (1904). J.S. Dodge moved “the J.S. Dodge Company” to the same block (within 100 feet of Dodge Stationary) and posted signs that “Dodge will occupy these premises … about March 1st.” As the court stated, “a person comes naturally by his name from his parents, and it is a thing personal to himself, … but “the name given to a corporation is an artificial and impersonal thing, selected arbitrarily by the corporators themselves, and which can be selected from an entire vocabulary of names.”