Choosing an effective company name will help set you apart from your competitors and form the foundation of your company’s ‘brand’. While this article is not here to help you find the perfect name for your company, it will help steer you through, from a legal point of view, what you can and can’t call it.
Check whether the name is already being used
Starting with the basics, you cannot choose a name that is already in use by another company. The easiest way to check whether or not this is the case is to head to the Companies House website and use the ‘Company Name Availability Search’ tool. There, you can type in your desired company name, click search, and determine whether a company is already using the name, or whether there are companies using similar names that would prevent you from using it, or may lead to business confusion for both parties and the public.
Check whether the name would infringe an existing trade mark
You should also check whether the desired company name would potentially infringe an existing trade mark. You can carry out a basic search yourself by searching the Register of Trademarks (which should at least give you an indication of whether existing marks may be problematic), or you can contact one of our experts to help you with this.
Required words or phrases
If you are incorporating a private limited company or a public limited company, unless you fall within an exemption, you will be required to have ‘limited’ or ‘ltd’ or ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’ at the end of the company name.
Check whether your desired name is deemed a sensitive word or expression
You need to check whether the desired name includes a ‘sensitive word or expression’ that would require approval from the Secretary of State and potentially a regulatory body e.g. “British” or “Dental”. To do this, you need to check whether the name falls within the current Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations (“Regulations”). The Regulations can be found on the legislation.gov.uk website.
Names that cannot be used
Your name will be rejected if its use would constitute an offence, or if it would be deemed offensive.
Names that suggest a connection with government or a public authority
If your desired company name suggests an association with the government, public authority or local authority, you will need to seek permission from the Secretary of State.
Domain name availability
One final point to check is whether the domain is available for your desired company name. There are a number of websites that you can check this on, or alternatively contact an expert who can guide you through this area.
There is no way of reserving the desired company name under English law. As such, you will only secure the name once you actually incorporate your company.
Last reviewed: September 5, 2015