You may already have a list of possible names for your business or maybe you are still waiting for some inspiration but whatever name you choose it pays to check that it is a name you can use before you go to print with it and start building your business reputation. There isn’t a central register of all business names so depending on how you operate you can carry out different checks to try and ascertain whether your chosen name is available. A list of websites referred to can be found at the end of this article.
Limited companies/partnerships – if you are going to operate through a limited company or limited partnership you can search your proposed name against a register of all existing registered companies and limited partnerships in the UK on Companies House website. If you are registering a private limited company you will need to have Ltd or Limited at the end of your company name.
If you are a sole trader you can choose to operate under your own name or a business name. As there are no central registration requirements you will have to carry out some research to try and ensure that you do not settle on a name which is already in use by someone else. If the name is already in use by someone else you could face legal action from them.
It is highly likely that you will want to have a website for your business and should check that the business name you are considering hasn’t already been registered as a domain name by someone else. The websites for searching .uk and .com domain name registrations are below.
Another search which you should carry out no matter how you intend to operate is to see if the name has already been registered as a trade mark. You can search the register in the UK and also the European register which covers the UK. If the name you have chosen is distinctive then you could choose to have it registered yourself (along with your logo if you wish). A trade mark registration gives you protection against others using your name and will also make your name easier to sell or licence but there are costs associated with the registration (starting from £200).
There are certain names that are restricted for use for all businesses no matter how you operate unless you have permission – such as ‘royal’ or ‘queen’. Other words can only be used in your name if it can be justified, such as ‘British’. Further information about restricted words can be found on the Companies House website below.
Finally, a word of warning – even if your chosen name is not showing as registered on the various registries below it does not automatically mean that it is available – try and carry out as much market research as possible and take legal advice if necessary.
Companies House – http://wck2.companieshouse.gov.uk//wcframe?name=accessCompanyInfo
UK Trade Marks – https://www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark
European Trade Marks – https://oami.europa.eu/eSearch/
.com domain names – http://www.internic.com/whois.html
Restricted words – http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/about/gbhtml/gp1.shtml#appA
Hannah Ives – LawBite Company and Commercial LawBrief. You can find out more about Hannah in our Meet The Team section.