Choosing a company name – what to avoid, what’s allowed and how to change it

Choosing a company name

If you’re a contractor in the process of setting up your own Limited Company one of the first things to think about is what to choose as your company name. You may think that this is easy and you can basically choose any name you like. This isn’t quite the case though as in fact there are several factors to consider when choosing the name to ensure that it complies with the rules set out by Companies House.

What’s in a name?

The first thing to note is that all private Limited Companies in the UK must have either ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ at the end of their name.  Although there are exceptions to this, for the majority of contractors this will need to be included.

What kinds of names should I avoid?

There are several company naming elements that are either not allowed or are strictly controlled by Companies House including the following:

  1. The name must not be the same as (or amount to the same as) any other name on the Companies House index of names. The exceptions to this are if express permission is given to have a similar name, or the company is one of a related group of companies.
  2. The name must not contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression although in some cases you may do so if you are granted permission by the relevant party. In general the name must not imply business pre-eminence, a particular status, or a specific function. An example of this is the word ‘Bank’. If you wished to use ‘Bank’ in your company name you would need to get permission to do so from the Financial Conduct Authority.
  3. If you intend to use any national words – such as British, Great Britain, United Kingdom or International – check carefully with Companies House first as these are very strictly controlled.
  4. The name must not suggest a connection with government or local authorities where no connection exists.
  5. The name must not be offensive.
  6. There are also controls on the use of certain characters, signs, symbols and punctuation appearing within a company name.

If after incorporation the company name is found to breach any of the above, or objections to the name are received, you may be required to change it. This will also be the case if any misleading information was given relating to the name at the time of incorporation. This could potentially cause a lot of hassle and stress, so it pays to think through these points first when deciding what name to go for.

What kinds of names are generally allowed?

As long as the name is unique and is within the rules set out above there’s a wide range of choice available to you.
Some people choose random words or phrases as they are not intending to use the company name as a brand to trade on. If this is the case for you then you’ll probably be less concerned about what the name sounds like or if it has marketing potential which gives you even greater choice.

If you do intend to incorporate the company name in your marketing strategy then just bear in mind that more often than not the most obvious choices have already been taken, so you may have to get a bit creative with it.  Even if you can’t find something that you really like it’s still possible to use a ‘Trading Name’ that fits, as long as this doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s name or trademark. To do this you will still need to display your registered company name on all documentation and your website but you can add something like ‘Stellar Computing Genius is a trading name of Xylo 2013 Ltd’.

If you are professionally qualified, such as a Chartered accountant, then you may be able to obtain permission to use this in your company name if you want to, but obviously check thoroughly that the full company name remains entirely unique.

What do I need to do if I want to change my company name?

If you want or need to change your company name you can do so in two ways:

  • Special resolution – if you change the name using a special resolution you must file a copy of the resolution, a completed form NM01 and the appropriate fee with Companies House.
  • Provision in the company’s articles – if you change the company name by means provided for in the company’s articles you must file a form NM04 and the appropriate fee with Companies House.

At Intouch we help make forming your first Limited Company a smoother process all round. With our experience and professional expertise you’ll be eased into Limited Company ownership knowing that the name, information requirements and paperwork are fully complaint and have been appropriately filed with Companies House.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.