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Choosing a Company Name

Friday, 14 June 2013

There are important practical and legal guidelines for choosing a business name. On a practical level it is usually advisable for a new company name be memorable, to have a positive connotation, to be fairly short and to include information about the nature of business in question.

There are also certain legal rules which one must follow when choosing a company name. Ignoring those rules may be disruptive down the line so it is better to keep them in mind at the start than bear the consequences later.

In the UK, the Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009 govern company names. These set out the permitted characters, letters, punctuation and symbols, which can be used.

Same-Business Names

The most basic thing to remember when choosing a company name is that it must be unique. In determining whether a company’s name is the ‘same as’ another company’s, the Regulations ignore articles, commonly used symbols and numerical characters but do take into account the word order.

If a company has the same name as previously registered company the application for registration of that company may be denied. One can check a company’s name using a number of online resources such as the Companies House web service, etc.

However, if a company has the consent of already registered company to use the same name or if a company forms part of the same group as already registered company, then a new company can be registered under the same name.

It is important to adhere to this rule, as you may become a party to a passing off lawsuit; registration of a company at Companies House provides no defence.

Misleading Business Names

The Regulations also deal with misleading business names, for example no company’s name must end on the word ‘Limited’, unless the company in question is a registered company with limited liability.

Sensitive and Offensive Words in Business Names

Under Section 54 of the Companies Act 2006 Act certain words cannot form part of a company’s name, unless they have gained approval of the Secretary of State. These ‘sensitive’ words include words connected with the Government or any public authority. Such words as ‘doctor’, ‘international’ ‘group’, ‘holdings’, building society’ also require evidence that their use is legitimate.

Any offensive word in a name will not be registered.


When choosing a name for a company it is also important to check its availability as a trademark and a domain name using the Trade Marks Register at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

Setting up a business requires that a number of legal considerations are taken into account, including when choosing a company name. Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can assist you with all aspects of business set-up. For more information please contact James Crichton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.