Different and unique: Your name must be different from other companies’ names meaning that it can’t be exactly the same or similar (‘same as’ or ‘too like’) to another registered name. Before choosing a name, make sure you have verified it in the Companies House register, through the company name check,to see if it isn’t already in use.
‘Same as’ names
You are dealing with a ‘same as’ name if the only difference to a name already registered is:
- Punctuation signs
- Special characters such as the ‘plus’ or ‘&’ signs
- One or more words you will find listed in the guide for company naming
If your company or LLP is part of a group of companies then you might get permission to use the same name or a similar one with the name of another company in the group.
You can use a ‘same as’ name if you obtain a written confirmation indicating that the other company or LLP agrees with you using a similar name.
‘Too like’ names
You are dealing with a too like name if the differences between your company’s name and another registered name are minor such as one or two letters.
If you are trying to register a ‘too like’ name, usually you will be contacted by a Companies House representative which will tell you exactly what to do.
Sensitive words and meaning:
- You can’t use a ‘sensitive’ word or expression as or in your company’s name unless you get permission
- You can’t use a company name that suggests a connection with government or local authorities
- You can’t use offensive words or expressions as or in your company’s name
When registered, there are rules about how and where you must display your company name.
The Registrar verifies if two names are similar by ignoring punctuation, status and a number of general words, symbols or expressions such as the ones listed below:
- Words: ‘and company’, ‘& company’, ‘and co’, ‘& co’.
- Words and expressions: ‘biz’, ‘Cymru’, ‘co’, ‘co.uk’, ‘com’, ‘company’, ‘EU’, ‘Exports’, ‘Group’, ‘GB/Great Britain’, ‘Holdings’, ‘Imports’, ‘international’, ‘NI/Northern Ireland’, ‘net’, ‘org’, ‘org uk’, ‘org.uk’, ‘UK/United Kingdom’, ‘Wales’, etc.
- Blank space (used between or after a word, expression, character, sign or symbol).
- Punctuation: full stop, comma, colon, semi colon, hyphen, apostrophe, bracket, exclamation mark, question mark.
- Permitted characters: * = # % + (if used as one of the first three characters in a name)
- ‘s’ at the end of a name and ‘www’ at the beginning of a name
- any but the first 60 characters in a name
In some situations you can have a name that is considered different enough to register and to receive later an objection, after it has been registered concerning the similarity to another name, case in which you might be directed to change it. Registering a name that is too similar to a business name already registered might submit you to the risk of legal action for ‘passing off’ if you adopted the name to take advantage of the image and credibility of another company. Even if your name has been accepted for registration, you are still not safe from such legal action.
Exceptions to “same as” rules
You can choose a similar name when your company is part of the same group with the company that has a similar name to yours and differs only by certain specified words and expressions (such as biz, co, co uk, co.uk, com, etc.), but you still need the consent of the registered company and you must file the written consent with your application confirming also that you are part of the same group.
The rule says that if you own a private limited company in UK its name must end in ‘Limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘Cyfyngedig’ or ‘Cyf’ (the Welsh equivalents).
Still, there are a few situations in which you can submit an application to not use ‘limited’ or the other equivalents in your name. These situations are:
- Your organisation is a charity or a sports club
- Your company is limited by guarantee
Another situation in which you can apply for not using ‘limited’ is if your articles of association say that your company requires its members to contribute to company assets if the company it is wound up during their membership, that your company can’t pay its members, it needs to invest the income on promoting its objects or has as activity art, science, education, religion, charity or any profession.