Unique situation developing lately..... My company "Barrett Motors, Inc." has been in business 25 Years and has three locations within 5 miles of each other. Fairly recently a new independent has opened in between my main store and one of my sattelites. The name of this place is "Barrett Motor Cars". I have had to deal with many of his mad customers. They call me thinking that we are the same company. It gets worse, I am starting to get mixed up online reviews from some of this places customers. I guess the guy has the right to the name as his last name is also Barrett, but, I just can't seem to think that the name is so close so that he can capitalize on our good reputation. The problem is...he may be dragging me through the mud with him.
Obviously, I am a car guy and not an attorney, but I believe that if you have not registered your name as a Trademark you are stuck.
The only thing I can think of is an advertising campaign designed to let your community know that this guy is not connected to you.
Unfortunate indeed. Head this off ASAP by distributing a direct to the point press release stating the confusion, that your competitor is not affiliated with your reputable business and end it by re-stating your value proposition (and your website & phone #'s)
No need to say anything bad about them - looks like they already dug their own grave.
Be sure to link the article back to your website as well; and it shouldn't cost you a dime.
As you plan your marketing, both direct and broadcast, make a point to establish your locations, franchises and that you have no affiliation with any other company known as Barrett Motor Cars or other Barrett companies in your market. You single out Barrett Motor Cars, but make it part of the statement to include all others. This should appear on your newspaper ads, mailers and blurb at the end of radio or TV commercials. Emphisize that Barrett Motors, Inc. has been doing business for 25 years at your three locations. make it a positive, but also make it clear that you have no further affiliations.
Set yourself apart, by advertising that you are the original barrett motors and that you have only 3 locations. (give address) Tell the customers in advertising to make sure they are at Barrett Motors inc and not the cheap imitations that have come along lately. If you can have banners, I would have banners that say The Original Barrett Motors. With over 25 years in the automobile business.
Is it to late to trademark the name and if he hasn't trademarked the name I would get it done yesterday. It isn't that hard to do and it would give you a lot of leverage once you have established the trademark.
You should consult an attorney sooner rather than later. Just because you don't have a trademark doesn't necessarily mean you are screwed. Barrett Motors and Barrett Motor Company are SO similar, and as long as you can provide evidence of your use of the name, you might have a shot at forcing him to change his.
Regardless, I would heed the advice of Eric and issue a press release. You could actually have some fun with this. You are the "REAL" Barrett Motors. Brainstorm some of this out to get it right. Think Coke vs. Shasta, etc. Shaq is the REAL DEAL. etc. etc. etc. I could spend hours playing around with the possibilities.
Obviously I am NOT an attorney, and you should consult one ASAP. From where I sit, you seem to be in a pretty good position, especially if you can prove with actual evidence that his use of your (and his) name is hurting your business.
You can spend countless dollars advertising the facts of who you aren't or you could set up a CRM or BDC department that can call your previous customers and get the word out as well as do their other duties related to that department. We all know the speed that word of mouth encompasses and your loyal customers will go out of there way to let everyone know the difference between you and your competition. This will strengthen your referral base and set the record straight. I also agree in trademarking and making sure your website's have pictures of your dealerships on their home pages. All in all its a tough one and im sure you have thought of everything, but keep in mind that dealers like that come and go and just as your title reads its more about weathering the storm.