If you are starting a new business or converting from sole trader to a limited company, you will need to choose a company name before making an application to Companies House.
This may sound like an easy enough task, but it does require quite a bit of consideration to ensure that the name is right for your particular business and also complies with the rules and restrictions set out in the following legislation and regulations:
- Companies Act 2006
- Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/17)
- Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3140)
Company names – the legal requirements
Many people strike it lucky and find that their first choice of company name is both legally compliant and available to register, but that’s not always the case.
To avoid disappointment and reduce the risk of your company formation application being rejected by Companies House, you should familiarise yourself with company name rules and restrictions, which we summarise below.
The name of your limited company must not:
- be exactly the same as an existing name on the UK companies register
- be too similar to the name of an existing company on the register
- be offensive in nature nor include any words that are likely to constitute an offence
- imply a connection with the UK government, a devolved administration, a local authority, or a specified public authority
- include any ‘sensitive’ words or expressions that are included in the regulations
- include certain characters, punctuation, signs, or symbols that are prohibited under the regulations
The name of your limited company must:
- end with ‘Limited’ or ‘LTD’ if it is a private company limited by shares or guarantee – or the Welsh equivalent (‘Cyfyngedig’ or ‘CYF’) for companies with a registered office in Wales
- end with ‘Public Limited Company’ or ‘PLC’ if it is a public company limited by shares – or the Welsh equivalent (‘Cwmni Cyfyngedig Cyhoeddus’ or ‘CCC’) for public companies with a registered office in Wales
Private companies limited by guarantee can apply for exemption from using ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ (or the Welsh equivalent) at the end of their name if their articles of association state that:
- the company’s purpose is the regulation or promotion of art, commerce, science, education, charity, religion, or any other profession that is conducive or incidental to any of those purposes
- the company’s income will be used to promote its purpose
- members will not receive any payment of dividends or return of capital from the company
- if the company is wound up, all business assets that would otherwise be distributed between members will be transferred to another body with a similar purpose or with charitable objects
If you are planning to set up a private company limited by guarantee, you can apply for exemption on the company registration application form.
Is my company name available to register?
You can find out if your chosen company name is available to register prior to submitting your company formation application to Companies House. Simply use our free online Company Name Checker, which links directly to the official UK Register of Companies. Results are immediate and will also tell you if the name contains any sensitive words.
If the name is available, you should ensure that it is not the same as an existing trade mark. You can do this by checking the UK Intellectual Property Office’s trade marks register.
It is also advisable to find out if your company name is available as a domain name for your company website and email addresses. Aside from improving your web presence and making it easier for potential customers to find you online, a high value domain name that matches or closely relates to the name of your business will add professional credibility to your company.
Choose a company name – 5 top tips
The name of your business holds a great deal of power, impacting the way that customers and investors will view and connect with your brand. Pick a great company name and it could prove to be one of your most effective marketing tools, differentiating you from the competition, adding value to your brand, and appealing to customers in your target market.
A bad company name, on the other hand, could prevent your business from even getting off the ground.
Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when choosing your company name:
1. Unique and memorable
There’s often a fine line between a name that is absurd and one that is unique in an effective way. Both may be memorable, but for very different reasons and with very different outcomes.
Try to choose a name that is catchy, relatable, and conveys the purpose or spirit of your business. It needs to appeal to your target market without being too on-trend that it is likely to become out of date very quickly.
2. Easy to spell and pronounce
Unusual words and creative spelling are often used to make a business stand out from the crowd, but this can sometimes have the opposite effect if the name is too difficult for people to spell and pronounce. Customers may struggle to recall the name of your business, it will be challenging to find your website online, and it could put a real dent in word-of-mouth recommendations if people don’t know how to say it.
3. Short and simple
Short, simple, straightforward. That’s the kind of business name that people can recall easily and will stand the test of time. If your company name is too long or complicated, people are likely to forget, misremember, or dislike saying it.
Whilst it’s not always possible or necessary to use a name that states exactly what a business does or sells, you do want to choose a name that is in some way meaningful and related to what your business is all about. You can be really creative here, but it’s best to avoid being too clever, as you could end up confusing people instead.
If you find that you are having to explain the name to everyone, it’s probably too obscure and may not resonate with your intended audience. This could cause considerable damage to your brand image and the success of your business.
5. Leave room for growth
It’s best to avoid choosing a company name that limits your business to a specific product or location. Whilst it can be an effective way to establish a local presence or highlight what you sell, this type of company name can be restrictive and could cause issues in the future, if you decide to alter your product line or move to a different location.