If you are thinking about starting a business, finding the right name can be one of the most interesting yet challenging tasks you carry out. However, an important point to be aware of is that there are restrictions on what you can name your business which many people do not realise.
Companies House rejected more than 800 company name registrations in the last two years on the grounds that they are ‘potentially offensive’. The rejected company name registrations include ‘Building That Fought Hitler Limited’, Cambridge Cannabis Club Limited, Fancy a Bomb Ltd, and Fit as Fork Ltd. To help guide you when deciding a name for your business, we have put together a brief overview of what restrictions are in place when naming your company to ensure it gets off to a flying start.
Company names must be unique
Every UK registered company must have a different and unique name. You should conduct thorough research online and use the ‘name availability checker’ on Companies House to have a look at any similar names that are already registered. To simply add or change punctuation is not enough; it is important that your name is unique to ensure that you do not 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. Whichever you choose is up to you and it makes no legal or practical difference.
Potentially offensive words and phrases
A Companies House spokesperson, in response to the news that more than 800 potentially offensive names had been rejected, said it was important that the register was not being abused by recording offensive names. Company names must not be phrased in a way that may cause offence nor should they include offensive words. However, if you can show justification for using such name, you may be able to have the name approved. If not you may have to come up with a different name unlikely to cause offence.
Sensitive words and expressions
In addition to offensive words, there are 134 sensitive words and expressions that you need approval from the secretary of state in the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to use in a company. Such words and expressions, for example, include British;, commission, licensing, inspectorate, parliamentary, standards, and Windsor.
Guidance is also provided on words and expressions that could imply a connection with a government department, a devolved administration or a local or specified public authority.
It is a criminal offence to use certain words and expressions in your company name if you do not meet the criteria for doing so. For example, using words such as solicitor, surgeon, architect, building society, and even apothecary all have very specific requirements to prevent fraud and abuse.