When it comes to starting a business, one of the most challenging but interesting tasks you must carry out is finding the right name. However, many people do not realise that there are restrictions on what you can name your business.

In the last two years, Companies House rejected more than 800 company name registrations on the grounds that they are ‘potentially offensive’ including names such as Building That Fought Hitler Limited, Cambridge Cannabis Club Limited, Fancy a Bomb Ltd, and Fit as Fork Ltd. In this article, we look at the restrictions on what you can name your company to ensure your new venture gets off to a flying start.

Company names must 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, using the name availability checker. 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 and it makes no legal or practical difference which one you use. 

Potentially offensive words and phrases

In response to the news that more than 800 potentially offensive names had been rejected, a Companies House spokesperson said it was important that 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 show justification for using the name, otherwise you may have to come up with a different name unlikely to cause offense.

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. 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 local or specified public authority.

Criminal offences

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.

And Finally

Don’t forget to run full searches to find out if anyone else might be using the name you have in mind, or whether the use of the name might infringe a trademark or other registration. This might not show up on a Companies House search as it could, for example, be a trading name, or a name used by a company registered outside the UK. We recommend professional advice to ensure your searches are comprehensive. 

TSP is a Legal 500 Leading Firm with its Corporate and Commercial Team being recommended as one of the best in this practice area in Essex. If we can assist with any questions you may have about your business please contact Mary Anne Fedeyko on 01206 217049 or email maryanne.fedeyko@tsplegal.com