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Finaxe… Sounds like Finext

February 2019. You might not think so at first, but the trade name Finaxe looks too much like Finext. Which is why the District Court in The Hague recently ordered Finaxe to change its name.

Confusion

The Hague-based financial consultancy which owns the trade name Finext objected to a firm in the Dutch city of Groningen using the name Finaxe. It claimed consumers could confuse Finaxe with its own longer-established tradename Finext.

‘Fine-Aks’

In an effort to save its skin, Finaxe had argued that the names Finext and Finaxe were visually very dissimilar. What’s more, the Groningen company claimed, the word ‘Finaxe’ was pronounced not in the English way (“Fine-aks”) but in the Dutch way, as “Feen-aks”. Which meant you couldn’t confuse the two.

Study

Finext managed to torpedo this defence fairly easily, however. It commissioned a study which showed (partly through voice recordings) that most people did in fact pronounce Finaxe as “Fine-aks”, in other words, using English pronunciation. So that argument was quickly scotched.

Infringement

The Court therefore concluded that because both names were pronounced in the English way, they did sound very similar. And since both companies were active in the financial sector (albeit focusing on different areas) there was a risk that consumers could confuse the two. Verdict: the Groningen company has to look for a new name.

No trade name search: scandalous

Trade name rights are a veritable minefield for businesses. What’s more, in the Netherlands it’s not possible to carry out a comprehensive search for older, similar tradenames to the new name you want to use. The Dutch Chamber of Commerce only offers an identical online check, but that’s completely inadequate if you want to be certain your name is available. So even if Finaxe had run the Dutch Chamber of Commerce search, it wouldn’t in any case have brought up the older problematical name Finext. It’s scandalous that the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, an organisation with considerable means at its disposal, doesn’t offer a decent trade name search facility. After all, it can’t be that difficult to develop the right software.

Bas Kist