Company name guide
Check the availability of your preferred company name
The company name availability checking process
Before carrying out a company name search, it’s important to know that Companies House imposes rules and restrictions on company names.
To avoid disappointment and minimise the risk of your company formation application being rejected, take some time to read over the rules and restrictions below.
Company name rules and restrictions
When choosing a company name in the UK, you must abide by the following rules and restrictions. They are not excessively limiting, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty during the company name search process.
1. Must not be the 'same as' an existing name on the index of company names
To avoid causing deliberate or unintentional confusion to the public, registered company names must be unique and easily distinguishable from one another. This means that you can’t register a name that is the same as (identical to) an existing company name, or one that is so similar to an existing name that the two could be easily confused.
However, you can use the name of a dissolved company. Furthermore, the ‘same as’ rules do not apply if:
- the new company will be part of the same group as the existing company with the ‘same as’ name; and
- the existing company provides its consent to the proposed company name; and
- the application to incorporate includes written confirmation from the existing company that it consents to the registration of the new company and that it will form part of the same group
‘Same as’ names are one of the checks carried out during the company name search process. If your company name is available, the result will state “Congratulations! This name is available.” At this point, you may proceed and register that company name.
However, if it is the same as or too like another name on the register, the company name search result will state “Sorry, this company name is unavailable”. In such instances, you will need to alter or completely change the name until you find one that is available.
Name is available
Name is not available
UBER CARS LTD
Congratulations! This name is available.
Sorry, this company name is unavailable.
2. The use of sensitive or restricted words and expressions
Another important check that is conducted during the company name search process is the use of sensitive or restricted words and expressions. Certain terms are entirely prohibited from being used in business and company names, whilst others require a written statement of non-objection from a government department or other specified body.
These rules and restrictions are in place to ensure that business and company names do not mislead or harm the public by:
- suggesting business pre-eminence (superiority), a particular status, or a specific function (e.g., by including the words ‘British’, ‘Royal’, ‘Charity’, ‘Tribunal’)
- implying that the company has an official connection with the UK government, a devolved administration, or a local or specified public authority (e.g., ‘Government’, ‘of Scotland’, ‘Police’)
- including a word that represents a regulated activity (e.g., ‘Banking’, ‘Dental’, ‘Insurance’)
- including a word that is deemed to be offensive, could cause offence, or whose use constitutes an offence
Restrictions on the use of certain words and expressions in company names are set out in Schedule 1 of the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014 SI 2009/3140).
Schedule 2 of the regulations details the list of government departments and other specified bodies whose approval must be sought in order to include specified words and expressions in a company name.
Additionally, Companies House sets out the approval criteria for using sensitive words and expressions in Annex A. The approval criteria for other restricted words included in the regulations are set out in Annex B and Annex C.
If you wish to use any restricted words in your company name, you will need to include the required supporting documentation (email or letter of non-objection) with your company formation application, otherwise the proposed name will most likely be rejected.
It will be brought to your attention during the company name search if you’re using any sensitive or restricted words or expressions. The result will specify the word(s) in question and state that you may need to supply additional information to support the name.
Name is available - with a 'Sensitive Word'
UBER BANK LTD
Please note: The word(s) Bank is deemed sensitive. You may need to supply additional information to use it.
3. Must include 'limited' at the end of a company name
The registered name of any private company limited by shares or limited by guarantee must end with the word ‘Limited’ (or ‘Ltd’). If you register a Welsh company with a registered office address situated in Wales, the name can end with ‘Cyfyngedig’ (or ‘Cyf’) instead.
Companies House will automatically add ‘Limited’ to the end of your company name during the incorporation process, even if you do not include it on the application to incorporate. However, if you would like it to appear in a specific format (e.g., Limited, LIMITED, limited, Ltd, LTD, ltd, or any Welsh language equivalent) on the certificate of incorporation, you should enter it as such on the application form.
Private companies limited by guarantee can seek exemption from this legal requirement, but only if their articles of association clearly state that:
- the company’s objects (aims; intentions) are the promotion or regulation of commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity or any profession incidental or conducive to any of those objects
- company income must be applied to the promotion of its objects
- the company’s members (guarantors) are prohibited from receiving dividend payments and any returns of capital
- all company assets that would otherwise be available to members generally and transferred on the winding up of the company must instead be transferred to another body with similar objects or to another body with charitable objects
You can apply for exemption on the application to incorporate or at a later date after company formation.
4. Must not infringe on an existing trade mark
Trade mark registration provides more protection than simply registering a company name, yet many new business owners are unaware of this. Unfortunately, a company name search will not alert you to possible trade mark infringements, so you will have to carry out a separate search.
To avoid trade mark infringement, which could result in legal action being brought against your new company, you should check the trade marks database to ensure that your chosen company name (and domain name) are not the same as or too similar to any registered trade marks of businesses which provide similar products or services.
Additional considerations when choosing a company name
Choosing a unique company name is not only essential from a legal standpoint, it is crucial for branding and marketing purposes. To give your business the very best chance of success, your company name should:
- be distinctive
- be easy to spell and pronounce
- be memorable
- not have negative connotations
- have the ability to resonate and connect with your target market
- be able to stand the test of time by staying relevant as your business grows
- look good on a logo
A great company name is one which has meaning and reflects or embodies your brand’s personality, values, qualities, or benefits. But it should also be relatively simple. A long or overly complex name can sometimes backfire by causing more confusion than interest. Clear, powerful names always fair best.
Is the company name available as a domain name?
If you carry out a company name search and discover that your favoured name is available to register, the first thing that we recommend doing thereafter is checking that the company name is also available as a domain name.
A domain name is the name that appears after ‘www.’ on website addresses and after the @ symbol in email addresses. Given that all businesses should have an online presence, even if they do not sell online, it’s incredibly beneficial to have a domain name thatmatches your company name.
A domain name will provide instant credibility to your company. Registering one that matches your company name will have a significant impact on your website’s ranking on search engines, increasing awareness of your brand and making it easier for your target customer base to find you online.
Additionally, you should secure your company and domain name on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Negative associations and linguistic considerations
An often overlooked consideration when choosing a company name is how it may be perceived or interpreted by others. This is why it is important to test the name by asking a wide range of people for their honest opinions, as well as searching the name online to determine common associations.
The key points that require careful consideration include:
- Interpretation and meaning – What do people think of when they hear the name? Does it convey something positive and relevant, or could it be misconstrued in a way that you would rather avoid? Does it confuse people or pique their interest?
- Negative associations – Could the company name be associated with a person,organisation, practice, or event that could negatively impact your brand image?
- Pronunciation and spelling – Can people pronounce and spell the name without difficulty? How does it sound when the company name is said aloud in different accents? Do you foresee any issues as a result of pronunciation and spelling?
- Lost in translation – Does the name mean or represent something different in other parts of the UK or abroad, or within certain cultures? Some words may not translate well into other dialects or languages, which could have unfortunate consequences for your business.
- Geographical references – If you include a place name in your company name, will this limit your business as it grows, or could it be beneficial?
- Too limiting – If your company name is very specific (e.g., by referencing a particular product or service) could this cause issues in the future if you decide to expand or diversify?
Business names shape first impressions of brands, so it’s important to ensure that your company name creates the desired one. A great company name starts the right conversation, generates interest and trust in your business, and opens doors to long-term success.
The wrong company name, however, could start an unfortunate conversation that impacts your business in a way that is hard to recover from. So, during your company name search, don’t rush the process; take your time and try to cover all bases.
How to protect your company name
Once you have completed the company name search process, you should seek to protect your chosen name as soon as possible.
The first step is to register a company. You can do this online through 1st Formations for as little as £12.99, with the majority of applications being processed and approved by Companies House within a few hours.
We also offer a Reserve a Company Name service if you simply wish to protect a company name for future use, and a Company Name Change service for existing companies who wish to register a new name.
The next step is to register a domain name to secure your web and email addresses. This process can be carried out online through any number of domain name registrars, including Domain.com, Bluehost, and GoDaddy.
Finally, we recommend protecting your company name further by registering it as a trade mark. This will provide full protection by legally prohibiting others from using your company name in any way.
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