How to choose a name for your business

An important part of setting up your business is choosing the name. What you choose to call your business depends upon what it does, what is allowed by law, the legal basis of your business and your long term plans.

Brendon Christian

Reviewed by Brendon Christian of Christian. The Law Firm*

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Choose a suitable name

There are some restrictions and rules on what you can call your company. The name must not be misleading, obscene, give rise to obvious confusion, or be the 'same as' an existing name on the index. The name of a private company limited by shares and guarantee must end with 'limited' or 'Ltd'.

The Competition and Markets Authority (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) warns firms against misleading clients about the services on offer, the costs, the geographic scope of the business or the relationship with other businesses.

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Check the name has not been registered already

If you are intending to set up a company or limited liability partnership ('LLP'), it is worth finding out that your preferred name is not already taken. before checking it follows all the rules about names.

You can do this using Rocket Lawyer's company name availability checker. You simply enter your preferred name to see if it appears on the register.

You should also check the Trade Marks Register of the UK Intellectual Property Office to ensure that the proposed names does not infringe an existing trade mark. Successful registration of a name at Companies House will not protect you from being sued if someone else’s trademark or a long established business can prove that your selected company name is too similar to its business name and misleads the public into believing that the businesses are connected.

Check your preferred domain name is available

If you have a website, it’s equally important to be able to secure a domain name (ie the electronic address for a website address) which may be the same as or very similar to your business name. This will come with a suffix (eg '.co.uk' or’ '.com'). The domain name combined with the suffix is known as the URL.

Typing your preferred URL into the bar at the top of your web browser will quickly reveal whether a website with that domain name and suffix exists. If it does, you may want to consider a different name or suffix.

If you Google your preferred business name, the results could reveal some adverse publicity about another business with a similar name which might make you reconsider using it.

A more thorough check can be carried out using one of the many domain name registration companies. If the specific name is not available you could try some alternative domains which may still be suitable for your business (eg a .co.uk instead of a .com), but note:

  • this could indicate there is an existing business with your preferred name or something similar which might object to you adopting your preferred name (particularly if you intend to provide similar goods or services); and
  • domains ending with .ltd.uk are reserved for private limited companies registered at Companies House.

Registering your domain name

You can register your domain name through accredited domain name registrars who manage the reservation of domain names. Typically a registration will be for one or two years. It is important to ensure you keep renewing your domain name registration – if it is allowed to lapse, the domain name could be registered by someone else.

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