When it comes to starting a business one of the most challenging but interesting tasks is choosing the right business name. However, many people don't realise that there are restrictions on what you can name your business.
In the last two years Companies House has rejected more than 800 business name registrations on the grounds that they are ‘potentially offensive’. This included names such as 'Building That Fought Hitler Limited', 'Cambridge Cannabis Club Limited', 'Fancy a Bomb Ltd', and 'Fit as Fork Ltd'.
Should my company name be unique?
Every company registered in the UK must have a unique name. You should conduct thorough research online into any similar names that are registered with Companies House. Companies House have a name availability checker tool.
It is not enough to simply change punctuation. It is important that your name is unique so as not to cause confusion to the public.
Should I use ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd.’?
All private companies limited by shares must have ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd.’ in their company name. Which you choose is up to you, as it makes no legal or practical difference which one you use.
Can I use offensive words and phrases?
In response to the news that more than 800 potentially offensive names had been rejected, a Companies House spokesperson commented that it was important the register was not being abused by recording offensive names. Company names must not include offensive words, or be phrased in such a way that may cause offense. However, you may be able to have the name approved if you can justify it.
Are there any sensitive words and expressions?
In addition to offensive words, there are 134 sensitive words and expressions that you will need approval to use. Approval is from the secretary of state in the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Examples of such words and expressions include 'British', 'commission', 'licensing', 'inspectorate', 'parliamentary', 'standards' and 'Windsor'.
Guidance is also given on words and expressions that could imply a connection with a government department, a devolved administration, or a specified public authority.
It should be noted that it is a criminal offence to use certain words and expressions in your company name where you do not meet the criteria for doing so. For example, the words 'solicitor', 'surgeon', 'architect', 'building society', and even 'apothecary' all have very specific requirements to prevent fraud and abuse.
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Please get in touch with our commercial lawyers if you require advice generally or help in drafting commercial contracts or terms and conditions.