Business names, otherwise known as trading names, are the name by which your business organisation is known. Often this will be the same as your own name(s) (if you are a sole trader or general partnership) or your official registered company.
Sometimes organisations choose to trade under a different business name from their official name. They may even choose to trade under several business names to help differentiate their different company divisions for the purposes of marketing.
Can I register a business name that already exists?
Although you don't need to register a business name, it's strongly advisable to carry out clearance searches before adopting new trading names for your business. As well as checking the trademark databases, it's also a good idea to do some general Google searches, as well as company registry searches and domain name searches for the name and also any logos people may be using. The results of those searches can often be very indicative in terms of helping to see if the name is in use by others in conflict with how you intend to use it. If it is, you may be forced to rebrand later down the line, which can be a painful process both financially and reputationally.
It's also worth being aware that some of the rules and restrictions which apply to company name registration also apply to business trading names. You need to consider this when you use a tool like a business name gernator. These generally exist to ensure a name does not mislead or harm the public, such as names which:
- Contain a sensitive word or expression (for which you must get permission). These may include names which:
- suggest business pre-eminence, a particular status, or a specific function (such as ‘British’, ‘Institute’ or ‘Tribunal’)
- imply a connection with a government department or public body (such as ‘Agency’ or ‘Authority’)
- include a word that represents a regulated activity (such as ‘Bank’ or ‘Charity’)
- include a word whose use could be an offence
- include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
A real wording of warning here... at Companies House or even purchasing the corresponding domain name is NOT the same thing as protecting your brand with trademark rights. Company incorporation and domain name registration simply give a legal right to use the name/domain as a business name or to use that URL. It does not give you the right to stop others from trading under similar names. To ensure you have exclusive rights to trade in your field under your business name, it is fundamental to ensure that you at least protect your brand name(s) with a trademark registration.
Conversely, having a registered trademark does not necessarily give you the right to register that same name as a company name. The two different forms of protection are dealt with by two separate organisations: Companies House (which deals with registration of company names) and the Intellectual Property Office (which deals with registration of trademarks).
How to register a business name in the UK
Before you get started with the registration process with Company House you should:
- Do your research and make sure that you are following the UK’s Companies House rules and regulations on which words and phrases you should use in your company name. You can use the following tools:
- Do keep in mind, that you cannot trademark certain things, so you might not be able to protect your brand entirely. Make sure you are following the rules and restrictions that apply to company name registration and business trading names. Read our blog 'What can and cannot be trademarked, and how long do trademarks last?' for more information.
- Create an account at the Companies House website and follow the registration process
- Register your business name as a trademark. Read the guide to new applications before you start if you’ve not applied before.
- Seek help from experienced lawyers. Trademarks can be difficult to navigate, make sure you have the expert legal advice you need.
Get legal assistance from LawBite
Having issues registering a business name or got a few questions about how trademarks work? Our lawyers can provide expert legal advice and guidance to help you with all aspects of getting your company set up.