I am developing a mascot character for my business. Yes, I know this is not important for many start-ups, but it is vital to the entire marketing and PR plan for this business.
I have the character, but have hit a hurdle with the name - after much thought and research I selected an unusual, appropriate and distinctive name I am ready to use - only I just learned the name I want is the first name of a prominent local businessman. My company has NOTHING in common with any business this person is associated with; I do not intend or plan in any way associate my business with this person; and I only found out about the same name by accident, I didn`t even know anyone in local business had that name. It is an unusual name, BUT NOT unique (more common in Europe than the US) AND relatively few people know this is the businessmans first name, he`s known in the community as `Mr. Smith`, not `XXXX Smith`. He is NOT a nationally known person, or a celebrity, or anyone who is likely to be known outside our community. He is the CEO of one of the largest businesses in our area.
My question is NOT a legal issue, it`s a PR and courtesy question. I have been told by two different lawyers it would be very difficult or almost impossible for anyone to succeed in legal action on a name issue based on only the first, given name that`s not associated with a trademark (for example, "Steve`s Hot Dogs" could be protected, but not just the name "Steve").
I see three solutions to my situation: 1) I can contact the businessman as a courtesy, say I am using this name for this character but in no way is it created to represent you, your business, or have any connection with your business; 2) I can just start using the name and hope he doesn’t have a problem with it; 3) I can find a new name. All I have invested in this now is my time and work in coming up with this name in the first place. But it is a very good name for my purposes. :)
What are your thoughts?