Good 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”
You 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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