What happens if two magazines have the same name?

I’m sure Time Warner would immediately shut down anybody who tries to make a magazine with a name even remotely similar to Time, but what if two publishers happen to make Obscurity Magazine?

Whoever comes up with it first could easily sue the other and force a name change.

What if they come out approximately the same time? Or if they come out at different times, but one is a paper magazine, one is a web site, and one is a newsletter?

This actually happens a lot. There were two magazines called Archaeoastronomy – one British and one American. I think one of them got absorbed into another, avoiding the issue of who should change their name.
Another case was the Sociology magazine originally known as Tras/Action, which changed its name to Society. Another magazine later on wanted to split into subsidiary issues, one of which would be Society, but the “transcation” version already had the name, and wouldn’t change, so they got to keep it.

In general, most people want to keep their product distinct, and so won’t use a name or logo already in use. This only becomes a problem when big-money bullies want to have their own way, like when Lauren apparently sued Polo magazine over their use of the name (And they had it first! And were writing about the actual sport of Polo!)

One example of this was when Oprah Winfrey started a magazine and called it O. But there already was a magazine called O - a German soft-core bondage magazine. The German publisher sued Winfrey’s publisher but lost the case. The judge ruled that there wouldn’t be any confusion between the two magazines. The decision was criticized by many.

Assuming one or both publishers want to officially trademark the name, there’s a whole body of law that deals with this.

A while back, The Daily Show did a bit on the two magazines that were called “South Jersey Magazine”. I can’t find anything on it on the web, but one of their domains no longer works so I think they lost.

There are a lot of periodicals with similar or identical names, actually - libraries and other trade tools tend to distinguish them with, say, “Obscurity Monthly (Boston)” and “Obscurity Monthly (U.K.)” or something similar.

And librarians deal with titles that are shared by a lot more than 2 magazines, like “Bulletin”, “Newsletter” and “Review”.

There is the newspaper USA Today, but there has also been a relatively small magazine about education called USA Today that has been around for the same amount of time. The magazine took the name “USA Today” in 1978 after changing its name from “Intellect”. And USA Today or as it’s known in library cataloging world “USA Today (Arlington, Viriginia)” started in 1982.

There is a German (I think) periodical called “O” which is of rather a racy genre, so I’m told. When Oprah was looking to publisher her own periodical, which she wanted to call “O” the existing company contacted her and advised that the name was already taken. Neither Oprah nor “O” wanted their target audiences to be confused. Oprah modified her publication’s title so that you would clearly know it was hers and not the more entertaining one.

Doesn’t matter. One will have trademarked the name before the other, and so they have the rights to it.

But there are lots of exceptions, and these help to keep lawyers employed.

Yeah, it can often be a huge pain if you don’t have the issue right in front of you to figure out in, say, Ulrich’s, which “The Bulletin” you’re looking for.