How to Name Your Business: Naming, Registration and Legalities in the U.K.

Naming your business in the U.K.

Whether you are just starting up or whether you have been in business a long time, finding the right name (or indeed changing it) is a big thing and must be undertaken with the greatest of care. It can also be a very enjoyable process. One of the main things that you have to remember is that first impressions always count. It is very tempting to add a personal touch to a business name and that works most of the time. However there are many issues that need to be taken into account. Many people find that it is important that taking an objective approach works better here. In the United Kingdom, there are some limitations to choosing a name and these have to be taken into consideration. At the end of the day, the name that you give your business will reflect you, but the most important thing is . . . your customer.

Remember that the name of your business is the linchpin of your brand. It should work wherever and whenever you use it, whether it is on the phone or on your website. When I was choosing my business name, I based it mainly on the place where I was living at the time. However, I needed it to work wherever I was. I was originally going to call it Northern Star because I was living in the north of England and I liked all things celestial (one of many quirks that I have). But then I took a step back and thought about it. If I relocated or the business expanded into other areas, then it might  work, but the chances are it would not. So I had to rethink it. I did want it to reflect my personality but I wanted it to reflect the business as well as being able to 'grow' with the business. So I came up with something else that I am proud of.  I am not here to plug my business so I will leave it at that . . . needless to say it involves the things that I am most passionate about (apart from my faith) namely business and writing.

There are some things that you need to consider when choosing a name. Some of them are listed below:

  • Whether you want to include your name or not
  • Abstract vs descriptive (do you want the name to include what you do or not?)
  • Modern vs traditional name
  • If you are trading overseas, make sure the word does not mean something offensive in other cultures. This goes for any symbols that you use, too.
  • Is anyone else using that name?

There are other considerations, as well. If you are a sole trader or a partnership in the United Kingdom, you cannot include limited liability partnership (LLP), PLC or limited, or contain what are called sensitive names and expressions (words that need special permission to be used/words that could give a false impression of what it is your business actually does). The sensitive expressions that are not permitted to be used are:

  • Words/Expressions that convey that your business is of national importance - British, International, National etc
  • Words/Expressions that convey a special status - examples include words like Association, Institution, Society
  • Words/ Expressions that convey a special association - Royal, Queen, Government
  • Words/Expressions that convey a specialty - Architect, Doctor
  • Words/Expressions that convey a particular function - Trust, Charity, etc

It is essential that you check that there are no local businesses using your proposed business name. If there is a company using it and it is at the other end of the country, then there may not be much of an issue. If it is local, then use a different one. If you are a limited company in the United Kingdom, then you will have to register with Companies House. You should also check that the name is not too similar to a word or expression used by another company as their registered trademark. Although this is not obligatory, it could save you the aggravation of being dragged to court.

Displaying the Business Name

If you are a sole trader or partnership, then you can display the name that you have chosen on your business correspondence. You also have to include the address. If you are trading online, not only do you need to have the name, you also need the address, email and other contact details, plus any memberships with professional organizations, if applicable. If you are a Limited Liability Partnership, you have to wait until the registration of your business name is complete. That means that Companies House has found it acceptable. It must then be shown on:

  • On the outside of each premise where business takes place. This can include the home address of you and any partners that are involved.
  • All business communication (written and email also), receipts, invoices and so on.

If there is a website, the Companies Act 2006 states that the full company name, its address and company registration details must be shown. If the business is closing down, this must be included too.

I hope this helps when you budding entrepreneurs decide to take the plunge.

Take care and God bless readers and writers . . . .


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Ngozi Nwabineli
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Posted on Aug 20, 2009
carol roach
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Posted on Aug 20, 2009