Mr Millennium joins the name game

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Nearly 500 British businesses have registered "millennium" company names, and hundreds more are using "2000", as millennium fever sets in.

Fever? That's what the hundreds of small businesses and entrepreneurs busy designing and producing millennium paraphernalia would like you to think.

While politicians and major corporations deliberate about plans for the Greenwich celebrations, everyone else is jumping aboard the millennium commercial bandwagon. From Millennium Footwear to Millennium Bomb Disposal Ltd, over the next three years these businesses will be coming up with every millennial product and service imaginable.

Apart from the predictable T-shirts, baseball caps and key- rings, offerings include millennium wallpaper, millennium barometers and millennium rune stones.

Hopeful entrepreneurs have been queuing up to trademark the word "millennium". But the Trademark Registry in Newport has ruled that it can be used by anyone who wants it.

Companies are still able to trademark products that incorporate the word "millennium" - they just can't own the word exclusively. For example, Greenwich Meridian 2000, a company that is selling "days" at the Greenwich Observatory, has been able to trademark its name.

Despite the Trademark Registry's ruling, there is bound to be much confusion about trademarking. One company in Croydon is convinced that it has exclusive rights to the word "millennium". Mr Shah, the owner of the Millennium Clothing Company, says: "We are the registered owners for the millennium trademark. The actual wording belongs to us. We registered it back in 1992."

In America, a man whose 30th birthday is one minute into the new millennium, has trademarked himself "Mr Millennium" and is bringing out a book and song. He is looking for a Ms Millennium to join him in his business venture.

Apart from the hundreds of people producing souvenir merchandise, event organisers and travel agents are also hoping for big profits. There are numerous millennium tour operators, all competing to come up with the most spectacular holidays.

The Millennium Train Company has chartered a Eurostar for the big night; revellers will pay up to pounds 6,000 for the privilege of being in the Channel Tunnel when the clock strikes midnight - and two nights in five-star hotels in London and Paris. And the Millennium Party Company is organising a party in London for up to 12,000 people.