• Intellectual property
  • February 18, 2022

How to register a business name

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.

Although you do not need to register a business name, it is strongly advisable to carry out clearance searches before adopting new trading names for your business. As well as checking the trademark databases, it is 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 is also worth being aware that some of the rules and restrictions which apply to company name registration also apply to business trading names. 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).

Registering a business name checklist

Before you get started with the registration process with Company House you should:


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Additional useful information 

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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