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Choosing a Company’s name is harder than picking a quiz team name – there are rules you need to follow

Corporate and Commercial

One of the primary concerns for a new start-up is choosing a good company name. Not only is it the first impression of your business, there are restrictions to consider.  Companies House, the UK’s register of firms, rejected over 800 names over the past 2 years after they were deemed potentially offensive. Some examples include ‘The Great Big Corrupt Company’, ‘Fancy a Bomb Ltd’, ‘Go Fudge Yaself Ltd’, and ‘Just Weed Ltd’. In addition, you need to make sure your name is not too similar to a name that has already been incorporated.

This article will walk you through the importance of a company name, some of the regulations governing the subject, and ultimately aid you in dreaming up the perfect title for your business.

“What’s in a name?”

In an age where commerce is largely transitioning to the online realm, offering a good product or service is no longer enough. Modern businesses must make a real effort to leave an impression on their consumers, and selecting the right moniker for your brand could make all the difference.

Choosing a company name, however, often proves to be a more difficult task than people typically expect. The title of your company must be easy to communicate and transcribe, support a strong domain name, be capable of adapting to your business’ growth, convey personality, and be legally protectable.

The subject has come to the fore over the course of the pandemic. Between January 2020 and January 2021, over 800,000 new companies were registered in the UK (more than 40% higher than the number of companies created in the previous 12-month period). A similar trend has been identified in the US; 4.4 million businesses were set-up in 2020 (24% more than in 2019). This surge has been attributed to the sharp growth in the e-commerce sector, fuelled by the increased number of people turning to online shopping in the wake of Covid-19. As a result, the pool of available company names has begun to diminish and decline.

 UK regulations – A quick glance

The central statutes relevant to company names include the Companies Act 2006 and the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015. The Companies House guidance on ‘Incorporation and names’ is also a useful resource to refer to.

Company names will be refused if they are deemed to constitute a criminal offence, deemed offensive, or match a name already registered in the company names index. When comparing company names, punctuation, and general terms like ‘the’ or ‘www’ at the start of the name are ignored, and certain symbols and their corresponding terms are treated the same (like ‘£’ and ‘pound’, or ‘&’ and ‘and’). You may use an extended range of accents, diacritical marks, and ligatures in your name; however, you cannot use such characters to create a name that is too similar to an already existing company. For example, ‘The Grêat Café’ and ‘The Great Cafe’ would be treated as the same name.

Additionally, company names in the UK cannot use words like ‘Royal’, ‘King’, ‘Queen’ and other similar terms without permission from the Cabinet Office in London. Such words have been deemed sensitive and may potentially mislead consumers into believing that the brand in question is affiliated with the Royal family or the government. Other restrictions hold that company names should not imply connections between the company and the government, a local authority, and some public authorities unless approved in advance by the relevant body.  Similar restrictions exist in relation to certain professions – for example, words like ‘Vet’ and ‘Chemist’ are protected by specific forms of legislation and a company would have to seek permission from professional bodies if they would like to use them.

Challenges can also be brought against companies by third parties if their newly registered name is identified as being too similar to an already existing name or a registered trademark.

Where we come in

A company name is important; it is often the first aspect of your business that a client or consumer will identify and may go on to define your enterprise as it grows. Our experienced corporate team at Hegarty Solicitors can help you navigate the laws and regulations governing company names, and ultimately aid you in dreaming up the perfect title for your business.

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