The business name you choose can be one of your most important assets. Before you choose a name you need to be aware of and consider the following areas:
The Companies Act 2006
The Companies Act contains details of the laws regarding the usage of names and the disclosure requirements of certain details of ownership. Companies House provides guidance to the relevant sections of the act in their Incorporation and Names GP1 booklet.
Cobra produce an excellent factsheet - A Guide to Choosing and Registering a Business Name. This factsheet outlines the rules governing business names, how to comply with specific requirements of the act and outlines the rules about misleading the public and opportunistic registration of names, including some handy hints and tips on creating a good business name.
Usage of the name elsewhere
When choosing a business name it is wise to check both locally and nationally to ensure similar companies are not using the same name. There are many advantages in doing this:
- Legal implications such as being accused of passing off as another company.
- To prevent customer confusion. When your client base increases and customers recommend your services to others you want to ensure they approach the right company.
- To ensure there is no confusion between your company and a company with a poor reputation.
- A company may be using the same or similar name for activities that you do not want be associated with and mistaken for.
There are a number of steps you can take to see whether any other businesses are using your proposed name:
- Check the name search section of the Companies House website for all registered company names.
- Check local telephone books, trade directories and relevant trade journals.
- Spend some time searching the web especially online business directories such as:
- Check registered trade marks especially if you are trading in goods or services. It is worth checking for identical trade marks across all goods and services including anything that is similar within a similar group of goods and services. A basic trade mark search is available through the IPO Website.
The Business & IP Centre offers a trade mark search service. Find out more about trade marks and our services on our Trade Marks page.
Legal restriction on words and phrases
The Companies act prohibits the use of offensive words and certain phrases. Details of these and how to make an appeal are outlined clearly in the Cobra factsheet A Guide to Choosing and Registering a Company Name. Companies House provides further details of the legal restrictions including the categories of sensitive words and phrases.
When you choose your business name you need to consider whether you also wish to have a website. The domain name you choose will also need checking. You can check availability via www.ukreg.com and www.domain.check.co.uk. Cobra provide an excellent overview in their Guide to Choosing and Registering an Internet Domain Name