Picking the right name for your business is paramount. It needs to describe what your company does, be catchy and memorable, future-proof, and adhere to all legal requirements. Deciding what to call your business can have a significant impact on how your company performs. The name will affect how customers perceive your business and can influence whether they decide to enlist in your services.

When you establish your company, you must be registered with Companies House, and part of this process involves naming your company in accordance with all the legal guidelines set out by HMRC. Here’s a general guide to ensuring you pick a name that is both legally sound and appropriate for your business.

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Can I Pick Any Name for My Business?

In theory, you can pick any name for your business, but some regulations may limit your choice. An example is that your company name must end with either ‘Limited’, ‘Public Limited Company’ or ‘Limited Liability Partnership’, or abbreviations LTD, PLC, LLP or Welsh equivalents (Cyfyngedig or Cyf). You may be exempt from using the word Limited if your company is limited by guarantee.

Your name should also not be offensive or contain sensitive words or expressions. Additionally, you cannot take a name that is already in use by another company, which includes incredibly similar names – where the only difference is in particular punctuation, special characters etc.

Could My Choice Be Rejected?

Before you submit your company name to the Registrar, you can check your choice of name at Company Register Online using our search tool to find out if your name has already been taken or contains sensitive words or expressions.

The Registrar ignores punctuation, a company’s status, and certain words, symbols and expressions when deciding whether a company name is the ‘same as’ another company’s. So even if your choice of name seems different from a name already on the index, it might not be enough. You may also face legal action from another company if they believe you are trying to mislead the public into thinking your business is another business. For a full list and examples of the ‘same as’ rules, take a look at our name guide.

Names will be rejected if it is already on the index, includes ‘Limited’ ‘Unlimited or ‘Public Limited Company’ anywhere except the end of the name, if the name is offensive, or if its use would be a criminal offence.

Sensitive names can only be used with the approval of the Secretary of State, as these names suggest a connection with central or local government. Provided you stick to these rules and regulations, you should be able to have your choice of name.

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Tips for Choosing the Right Name

Be aware of sensitive words and expressions

Sensitive words and expressions are those that apply a status or specific function governed by particular rules. The aim is to ensure the use of such words in company names does not mislead the public.

Sensitive words or expressions include:

  • Those that imply national or international pre-eminence, such as British, English, institution, association, society etc.
  • Words that imply specific objects or functions, such as insurance, chartered, charity, trade union, trust etc. unless your company has been approved for these functions by the appropriate organisations, such as the Financial Services Authority or the Charity Commission etc.

Take a look at our full directory of sensitive names for more information.

Don’t pick a limiting name

Make sure you don’t pick a name that is too narrow and limits what your business could offer in the future. Amazon, for example, started as a bookseller. But imagine if Amazon was called ‘Books Online’, that name would have limited their development into the biggest online retailer in the world.

Even if you only offer one service or type of product at the moment, you might expand in the future. So make sure you pick a more general name that will still work in these circumstances, essentially future-proofing your name.

Conduct thorough research

When you know what kind of name you’re looking for, use the internet to search for that name. You can also use our search tool to find out if the name is taken, but doing your own research can help inspire you and figure out what kind of naming conventions other businesses are using in your industry. Spend some time searching for your chosen names and see if similar companies exist, and if not, you may be on to a winner.

Get some feedback

Run your name options by your friends and family, and trusted colleagues. If possible, get some feedback from your potential customers too. Make sure the name doesn’t have any negative connotations that you may not have considered and find out whether people respond well to the company name and understand what you’re trying to achieve.

Give it meaning

Your name should convey something meaningful that represents what your company does. This not only makes your company self-explanatory in its purposes, but it could also help with search engine optimisation. Alternatively, going for a nonsense name like ‘Google’ or ‘Yahoo’ that gives no clue to your purpose can also be incredibly effective provided it’s a catchy, appealing name. This is where that feedback will come in handy.

When it comes to naming your company, keep it simple, avoid offensive terms, follow all legal regulations, and you should be able to find the perfect name for your business. At Company Registration Online, we offer company formation services to help make the processes of getting your company set up and running as easy as possible. Contact us today to find out more.