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Norway > Legal Developments > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


Amendment of the "Trade Names Act" to the "Enterprise Names Act"

Effective 1 March 2004, the former Act on Exclusive Rights to Trade Names and other Trade Designations (Trade Names Act) of 1985 was replaced by the Act on Exclusive Rights to Enterprise Names and other Trade Designations (Enterprise Names Act).

The act sets out the requirements for ownership of an enterprise name (formerly trade name) and defines the degree of protection available against other parties' use or registration of the said enterprise name.

The new act is based on a need for simplification and modernization of the former act from 1985, combined with a wish to harmonize the trade mark legislation and the trade name / enterprise name legislation. The new act was drafted on the basis of a joint Nordic review of the trade mark legislations of the Nordic countries.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry thought there was a need for a better expression than "trade name". The term "enterprise name" was, in the opinion of the ministry, a far more clear and self-explanatory expression than "trade name". Thus, the short version of the act's name is the "Enterprise Names Act".

A substantial change is that the requirement that the trade name (now enterprise name) should have a "distinctive stamp" i.e. "suitable for being understood to be a name on a specific legal entity or an individual enterprise" to be registered as a trade name, is repealed.

According to the new act, the requirement for registration of an enterprise name is that the name should not be identical with an already registered enterprise name, unless the owner of the already registered enterprise name has given its approval. Further, it is now accepted that an enterprise name may consist of only three letters, thus e.g. the enterprise name "PRB" can be registered. It was a lot more difficult to register such enterprise names prior to the legal amendment due to the above mentioned requirement for a "distinctive stamp".

Even though there is no longer a requirement that the enterprise name is distinctive, there is still a requirement that an enterprise name is distinctive to be protected against marks that are apt to be confused with the enterprise name, i.e. other enterprise names, trademarks and other trade designations. This provision mirrors the corresponding provisions in the Trademarks Act.

Enterprise names that are not distinctive enjoy protection only against identical enterprise names, since it is not possible to register an identical enterprise name in the Register of Business Enterprises.

As mentioned above, the right to an enterprise name can also be achieved through use of the name in the market.

Under the previous act, the proprietor held protection for the "trade name" only within the same geographical area as the trade name had been used or was expected to be used (area protection). This provision has been repealed, and protection is now nation-wide.

However, protection restricted to the same business sector still applies, hence an enterprise name is only considered apt to be confused with another enterprise name as long as it is used or meant to be used within the same business sector.

Many of the amendments of the act are of linguistic character.

Further, the provisions concerning the review of decisions about registration have been amended.

The amendments apply to notices of registration received at the Register of Business Enterprises after the date the amendments enters into force (1 March 2004).

Marte Thorsby

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