As you surf the internet looking for tips and advice on choosing the perfect name as you start your own business, one of the phrases you will come across time and again is that of ‘sensitive words and phrases or expressions’.
Limited company names are subject to certain restrictions and requirements under the Companies Act 2006 and the Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009. In addtion, there is secondary legislation that specifically governs the use of sensitive words and expressions – the Company, Limited Liability Partnerships and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014.
Quite often it will not come with an explanation and you will be left to surmise the meaning. Well no longer; we are here to make the whole process as straight forward and pain free as possible.
What constitutes a sensitive word or expression?
A sensitive word or expression is one that can; by accident or design lead to confusion or mis-lead the public, as its inclusion in a company name will suggest a connection to an organisation or professional body where none exists. Alternatively it can be a ‘rude’ word, or by combining perfectly innocent words can accidentally create an unfortunate combination; take the specialist pen shop in the U.S, which chose to call itself Pen Island! Or the clothing company that chose the brand name of FCUK, which although permitted and the company that owns the brand thought it to be both catchy and witty did indeed cause quite a lot of offence.
Also included under this heading is anything alluding to a connection with the Royal family. Any use of a Royal title including Her Majesty, Prince, Duchess and so on, even the surname of Windsor or a connection to a Royal household may only be used – when appropriate – by obtaining special written permission by way of a Royal Warrant. This can only be granted by the Lord Chamberlain’s office. This also includes any image, emblem or coat of arms associated with any member; no matter how distant, of the Royal family.
Common examples of sensitive words
Although by no means exhaustive, the list below gives some of the more common words, or organisations you will want to avoid.
Chamber of Commerce
Added to this should also be the equivalent names in the Welsh and Scottish languages.
Am I qualified?
Unless you have professional qualifications, you are prohibited from using any name, description or professional suffix which might lead others to think you are qualified to do so. The most common examples are:
Of course again this is not an exhaustive list and it is always recommended to double, even triple check.
Recent legislative changes
Prior to the 31st January 2015 the most commonly used sensitive words were words like ‘International’, ‘Group’ and ‘Holdings’ however as part of of the government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’, designed to reduce the administrative burden companies face, the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014 reduced the number of sensitive words requiring approval to be used as part of a company name.
Some of the more common words or phrases that are no longer considered to be ‘sensitive’ include.
What if I have the necessary qualifications / approval to use a sensitive word or expression?
Once you have made the decision about your company name and you have checked to make sure it is available, unique and fits in with the regulations and have done the same for your chosen logo should you be using one; the actual process could not be simpler.
Where supporting documentation is required and you have the necessary documents to approve your usage, then this must be supplied to Companies House at the time of submitting your company for incorporation. Assuming your chosen company formation agent has the same advanced online capability that we do, simply upload all your supporting documentation during the order process. We will check that all is in order, and assuming this is the case, then it is a quick and simple process and should only take a matter of hours before completion.
If there have been any sensitive words or phrases accidentally included then your chosen formation specialist will happily work with you to find an alternative with which you are happy.
It is part of the formation specialists remit to stay abreast of the ever changing legislation regarding what is and is not sensitive or permissible; so don’t be afraid to ask questions or to rely on their expertise, after all that is the reason for their very existence!