Is your business' name legal?
Picking a company name is far from straightforward, and you
certainly can't call your business anything you want. There
are strict company formation guidelines on what is and what's
not allowed to used as a company name. This business guide explains
how to check if your company name is legal and allowed.
- Is your company name unique?
- Names of business that have been liquidated or dissolved
- Sensitive words to avoid
- National words
- Authoritative words
- Specific objects or functions words
Is your company name unique?
Your first step is to find out if you're company name is
available. You can check if your name is available on Companies
House and it's worth bearing in mind that Companies House remove
all punctuation and spaces when checking names are free; so for
example adding an exclamation mark to name won't make a difference
to an already registered name. It also ignores THE and COMPANY,
e.g. if London Tea Rooms is already registered, you wouldn't be
able to register The London Tea Rooms as a unique name.
- Check to make sure your company name is available before
setting it in stone
- Don't include punctuation or THE or COMPANY as this will be
Names of business that have been liquidated or
You're not allowed to register a company that is in liquidation.
So if you've heard of a company in that stage and think it's got a
great name, think again and don't waste your time trying to
register it. The Companies House name search facility will place an
L next to these names. However, you are allowed to register a
company name that has been dissolved. These will be clearly marked
with a D next to them.
- Don't assume a company going into liquidation means you can use
- Dissolved company names can be re registered
Sensitive words to avoid
There's a long list of names you must avoid when registering a
name. These are described as sensitive words and can range from
names of countries to words that imply authoritative names. The
main reason for this is to prevent the public being mislead as to
what your businesses function is. E.g. If you're not a British
owned company, then you wouldn't be allowed to call your business
The British Radiator Company. We've broken the following steps down
into the most commonly misused sensitive names.
- Avoid using sensitive names in your company name.
- Check and double check your right to use sensitive names if you
feel they will add to the name.
You must be careful using national words such as British,
England, English, Scotland, Scottish, Wales, Welsh, Ireland, Irish,
Great Britain, United Kingdom, International or European. This is
mainly because using such a suffix to a company name could imply
that it has a connection to a Government body or trade association.
There is an exception to this which is if one of these words is
your surname. You'll usually then be able to use it as a company
name if you include your forename or initials, e.g. you should be
able to get away with A. English or Annabel English as your company
name. You will of course need to check that this name is unique and
free as described in step 1.
- Think carefully about including these words in your company
name take a long time to research
- Ask yourself if they're absolutely necessary
There are also strict rules for using authoritative words within
your company names. Words such as, association, federation or
society, as these words imply your company are in fact this type
and would be limited by guarantee. You also need to check if you're
allowed to use words such as authority, board or council. And using
a word such as institute or institution can usually only be allowed
for organisations that carry out research.
- You need to insure that you only use these words if they are
applicable to your company.
- Don't use words in your name that could be construed to mislead
Specific objects or functions words
When naming your business you should also avoid names that
include specific options or functions. Words such as chartered
wouldn't be allowed as it would give the impression that your
company has a Royal Charter. Other words like this that you need to
avoid include foundation or fund, charity, co operative, group,
group, society, holdings, patent, post office, stock exchange,
trust (there are a wide variety of trusts so you will need to check
them all) and trade union.
- If your company won't perform a specific function then don't
include these words
You can search for available names then register a business name
with Smarta. You will receive a professional binder with all your
official documents via post within 3 days.
Go to our company registration tool here: Company registration tool
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