How to Choose a Company Name in Italy

Company NameGood news for the new business in Italy. You can choose any the name you want, even the name of an existing company. In many countries, such as England where I am also registered lawyer, you can’t call your business with the same name of an existing company, to avoid confusion and fraud. This is not the case in Italy, the Chamber of Commerce will accept any company name you want, unless is regulated (see below).

However, before you incorporate a company using the name of “Valentino” or “Ferrari”, remember that big companies have their name protected as a trademark. The Chamber of Commerce will open your business – because the Italian corporate law allows any name – but as soon as you became just a little famous, you will be probably sued by the big corporation. So be careful.

Forbidden company names in Italy

The only limit to choose your company name is connected to regulated name, that are forbidden. Unfortunately there isn’t any list of forbidden names, it’s a case by case decision of the Chamber of Commerce.

As a general rule, your name will be rejected for three reasons:
i) if the name confuses your company type. For instance, if you are a limited company you can’t use the word “Fondazione” (Foundation) in your name;
ii) if the name sounds like a business that requires a license. For instance part of your name can’t be “Banca” (Bank) or Insurance (Assicurazione);
iii) in general, your name will be rejected if it can be used to commit frauds. For instance you can use “Polizia” (Police), etc.

Don’t be an “idiot”

NamingYou need to be careful about choosing a name that doesn’t sound weird in Italian. For example, Gonzo is a famous Japanese company – now sadly dissolved – producing successful animation movies, and the name of a famous priest, teacher of Kukai. I have a passion for Asian history and culture, so I can keep talking for hours about the name “Gonzo” in Japan. Unfortunately in Italian “gonzo” means “idiot”. Unless you have a specific plan to sound funny, you don’t want your company be named “idiot”.

Check the vocabulary then call your Italian friend

Checking with an Italian vocabulary is rarely enough. Local dialects still rules. The modern Italy is a relatively young country. Before 1871 – the official date of the country unification – Italy had a French connected North East, an Austrian-German North West, a South with Spanish origin, and a mixed center. Local dialects are not so common anymore with one exception: insults and dirty words. Being an amateur of history, It always fascinate me to see that the most beautiful words of Dante’s Divine Comedy – one of the masterpiece of the Italian literature – are gone. But every Italian knows that the word “pirla” from Milan means idiot (yes, we have many name for idiots, I wonder what the reason is…).

So before you choose your company name call your Italian lawyer, book a night out in a bar and ask your lawyer to start telling the possible names of your company to drunks. If the drunks make funny faces and want to hit him, you will know that the company name doesn’t sound right in Italian. You got your name, and you see someone beat a lawyer. That’s fun!

Image source: Leafar Raphaël Labbé at Flickr.com

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2013-07-18T15:20:18+00:00 By |How-to Italy|7 Comments

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7 Comments

  1. Denise 24 July 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Thanks for the post. May I use a joke to name an Italian company? Like Pherrari (Ferrari) or Walentino (Valentino)?

    • Alexandr 24 July 2012 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      Maybe you can translate the name in your language like the Chinese. One Chinese guy translated the name of Starbucks in Chinese and open look like shop and made a lot of money. No way to sue you if your name is in a different language 🙂

      • Stefano L Tresca 25 July 2012 at 3:31 pm - Reply

        Good example Alexandr but … the clone of Starbucks in China WAS actually sue by Starbucks and they lost. It’s never a good idea to mess with big mega-corporation 🙂

        If you are interested:
        http://www.chinalawblog.com/2007/05/starbucks_v_china_copycat_or_i.html

        • Marina 15 September 2012 at 3:07 pm - Reply

          auch i own u one. i was thinking exactly like alexandr. i am in milan every year for the fashion week let’s meet and talk business.

          • Stefano L Tresca 16 September 2012 at 8:29 am

            You are welcome 🙂

    • Stefano L Tresca 25 July 2012 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Denise

      The answer is USUALLY yes but only IF you work in a different market than the original company. For instance, you can start a chocolate business in Italy with the name Walentino. But if you try to sell clothes branded Walentino, this could confuse the customers. The real Valentino is going to sue you. And the public prosecutor can charge you as well for fraud.

      This is just a general suggestion. Before any real action, check with your lawyer. For instance, if Valentino sell chocolate, you can still be in trouble (I have no idea, but they sell perfumes and other non-clothing products). You can contact my colleagues at http://www.patentlawyersitaly.com or any other firm specialized in intellectual property, patents and trademarks.

      And let me know when you do it. I wanna be the first customer of WWWalentino …

  2. Richard 1 September 2012 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    The bonzo part is great 😀

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