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Forming a Company: Changes to Company Name & Same As Rules

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When a business registers with Companies House they must select a name for their company that will differentiate their business from other registered firms. The chosen name must not be the ‘same as’ or ‘too like’ another registered name and must not contain any ‘sensitive words’. Sensitive words are those which imply a connection with local or central government, or those that require the authorisation of the Secretary of State to be used.  The sensitive names list includes words such as university, charity, police and bank. It is important to note that a company name also cannot be offensive. From the 31st January 2015 the rules regarding sensitive and ‘same as’ names have changed and this could affect your choice of company name when you form a private limited company.  

‘Same as’ names

Whilst the new rules have reduced the number of sensitive words, they have also tightened the rules regarding ‘same as’ names.  ‘Same as’ refers to names that differ only slightly from a registered company name; they usually differ in punctuation or an extra word is added to the name.  The inclusion of the following words, or the use of brackets, will no longer be sufficient to differentiate one company name from another:
  • exports,
  • group,
  • holdings,
  • imports,
  • international,
  • services,
  • ‘& Co’,
  • ‘& Company’,
  • ‘and Co’, and
  • ‘and Company’.
For example, if someone attempted to incorporate ABC Services Ltd this would be regarded as too similar to ABC Ltd under the new rules. If a name is found to be too similar to another, the Secretary of State will request that the most recently registered company change its name, within a set period of time. Same As ‘Same as’ names are allowed if the company being incorporated is part of a group with the company which holds the rights to that name. The rules regarding ‘same as’ consent provisions have been widened to make it easier for company groups to grant permission to register similar names.

Protecting your company name

A company name is a valuable asset to your firm as your goodwill is tied up in that name. For example, the company name Apple has a number of associations attached to it which would spring to a customer’s mind when the company is mentioned. If another company was to use that name they could benefit from Apple’s name as the customer may not be aware that it is a different firm. Your reputation could be at risk if you do not act and prevent the firm from continuing to trade under the similar name. If you discover that your company name has been copied or you think that a name is too similar you may benefit from seeking legal advice about action that you can take against the other company. You could also contact Companies House and draw their attention to the similarity and express your concerns. If you have any queries related to company names, sensitive words or company formations please email [email protected] or call us on  020 8952 0140.  

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