You can choose almost any name you like for your company, but as with anything else we do in life there are certain rules that we need to abide by.
Certain restrictions are imposed by Companies House when checking name availability, so it’s important to know what these restrictions are:-
All company names registered must be unique; it cannot sound too much like the name of an existing company. By ‘sound like’ we mean it must not be liable to cause confusion with the general public. In addition, there are various expressions and symbols that you would need to disregard when deciding if a name is too similar. Changing Marks & Spencer Plc. to Marks And Spencer Ltd for example, would not be acceptable. You can register a name that is similar to another already registered entity, but only if your new company is going to be part of the same group, or the existing company consents to the registration of the proposed name and provides a ‘letter of non-objection’.
It is worth mentioning also that if you are planning on using a trade mark, this is not automatically registered along with the company, so it also worth checking that your preferred company name is not already trademarked. You can carry out these searches on the International Property Office website https://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tmtext.htm
Limited or Ltd?
If you are forming a limited company then you must indicate this at the end of the name by including the suffix Ltd. or Limited and of course in Wales this would be Cyf. or Cyfynedig. There is no difference between the shorter and longer version, it is just a matter of personal choice.
Your company name must not suggest an affiliation to an official body such as HM Govt, any Ministry or Department therein or to any local or national public body or authority.
There are certain words which are generally referred to as ‘sensitive’. These include the term Royal or anything that suggests a link to any member of the Royal family; by use of a title – Prince, Duchess, Her Majesty and so on. To use anything like this requires specific written permission in the form of a Royal Warrant. Other words which require permission are anything that would give a false impression or mislead the public, such as Association, Foundation, Fund, Trust etc., In addition, you would not be able to use the name of a profession for which you are not qualified or the specific initials associated with it such as M.D if you are not a registered medical practitioner. See our blog on Sensitive Words and Expressions for more details.
Other general points
- The name should not include words that are likely to cause offence.
- A company name needs to be a maximum of sixty characters in length including the gaps and punctuation.
- If, as is likely these days you also have a company website, the WWW (world wide web) must not be included in the company name.
- The use of accents over letters or umlauts are perfectly acceptable where they are required, as is the use of numbers, the percent sign % and the @.
Dissolved Company Names
Can I use the same name as a company that has been dissolved? This is perfectly okay, but you would be well advised to do your homework on them first. It is a good idea to check any County Court Judgements (CCJ’s) they may have, what sort of reputation did they have when trading? You may also want to check out their financial statements for the last year or two that they traded. If what you discover is positive then by all means go for it, it could even be beneficial for your own fledgling company as former clients or customers may come to you on the strength of the name alone. If you then give an excellent service or provide a quality product then you too could thrive.
When you are first setting out in business there is an awful lot to consider and a lot of ground work to cover. This may seem like just so much more red tape with which to entangle you and trip you up, but for once it is there for your own protection. It is worth taking the time to make sure you have all the information you will need before going ahead and possibly making an expensive mistake all for the want of a bit of research, or because you didn’t like to ask what you feared may be a ‘silly question’ – there is no such thing. If in doubt ask, after all, we are talking about your company name here and this is a big decision, it is the name you will be known by and on which you will build your reputation, so not only do you want it to be memorable, but you want it to be remembered for all the right reasons.