Choose a suitable name
There are some restrictions and rules on what you can call your business. The name must not be obscene or offensive or misleading or giving rise to obvious confusion. Further rules apply depending on your business structure.
If your business is a private company limited by shares and guarantee its name must also:
end with 'limited' or 'Ltd' (if the company is registered in Wales, the Welsh equivalents, ‘Cyfyngedig’ and ‘Cyf’, can be used)
not be the 'same as' the name of an existing company
If your business is a limited liability partnership (LLP), its name must also:
end with ‘limited liability partnership’ or ‘LLP’ (if the LLP is registered in Wales, the Welsh equivalents, ‘Partneriaeth Atebolrwydd Cyfyngedig’ or ‘PAC’, can be used)
not be the 'same as' the name of an existing business
If you are operating a partnership or as a sole trader, your business name must also not include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’.
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.
You can also carry on business in the UK using a ‘trading name’. If you choose to do so, when entering into business contracts or on official paperwork, you can use your name, followed by the wording ‘trading as’ before your business name.
For more information, see the Government’s guidance on choosing a company, LLP, partnership or sole trader name.
Check the name has not been registered already
If you are intending to set up a company or 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 the Companies House name availability checker. You simply enter your preferred name to see if it appears on the register.
If a company has been dissolved, you can re-use the dissolved company name for your business. There are however many practical considerations to bear in mind (eg the reputation of the dissolved company, which may have an impact on the public perception of your business). This could happen even though the two companies are completely separate businesses and run by a different sets of directors.
You should also check the Trade Marks Register of the UK Intellectual Property Office to ensure that the proposed name 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 trade mark 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) that 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.
For more information, read Domain names.