I begin by thanking my hon. Friend for the courteous way that he has moved the Adjournment of the House on this interesting subject. I am also grateful to him for raising this matter as it gives me the opportunity to explain what the two registrars—the Registrar of Companies and the Registrar of Business Names—can and cannot be expected to do in regard to similar names.
I will set out a little of the history of this matter. In February, 1968, Keytronics was registered as the business name of a business to be carried on from a London address and described as "mail order, electronic components". The proprietor of that business name is not associated in any way with my hon. Friend's constituent, Mr. E. S. Payne.
A year later, in February, 1969, Mr. Payne wrote to the Registrar of Business Names to say that he was about to go into the business of manufacturing electrical components and had it in mind to use the name Keytronics. He asked to be informed how he should set about registering a business name. The registrar replied that the name Keytronics was acceptable for registration, and he enclosed with his letter an application form.
In the event Mr. Payne did not apply to register a business name, but instead formed a company which, on 9th May, was registered by the name Keytronics Ltd. Solicitors and agents, acting on Mr. Payne's behalf, made the normal inquiries before registration to ascertain from the Registrar of Companies that the name Keytronics Ltd. was available for the company which Mr. Payne wished to form.
Soon after Mr. Payne's company was registered solicitors acting for the proprietor of the business name Keytronics wrote to Mr. Payne to suggest that the activities of Mr. Payne's company might harm their client's business.
Mr. Payne evidently came to the conclusion that there was ground for this suggestion as, at the company's request, the name of his company was changed from Keytronics Ltd. to E. S. Payne & Son (Norwich) Ltd. on 24th July, 1969. In a letter to me, my hon. Friend said as he has said today, that it had cost the company £300 to change its name.
My hon. Friend has said that the company would not have been put to this expense if the Registrar of Companies had informed himself of the registration in 1968 of Keytronics as a business name and had regarded that registration as a reason for not accepting Keytronics Ltd. as the name of Mr. Payne's company. Alternatively, my hon. Friend has said that Mr. Payne would not have proposed Keytronics Ltd. as the name of his company if, when Mr. Payne had inquired about registering a business name, the Registrar of Business Names had informed him that the name Keytronics was already a registered business name and was not available for registration as the name of the business Mr. Payne intended to set up.