Simplifying the rules on company names

United Kingdom

Regulations require that, when a company chooses a name, either on incorporation or on change of name, the name must not be the same as – or too similar to – one already registered by another company; nor, without justification or special permission, must the name include certain words or expressions that are considered sensitive, like “Government” or “England”.

From 31 January 2015, new regulations come into force which consolidate and amend the existing rules to reduce the restrictions faced by companies when choosing a name.
The new regulations:

  • reduce the list of sensitive words and expressions that require prior approval. The words “National”, “European”, “Group”, “Holding”, “International” and “United Kingdom” are no longer sensitive words. This amendment also applies to business names – i.e. “trading as” names.
  • permit a greater variety of typographical characters and symbols, such as accents, to be used.
  • reduce the list of words that need to be disregarded when considering if a proposed name is to be treated as being the same as a name that is already registered. For example, at present “Imports” and “Exports” are disregarded when the names are compared, but this will change under the new regulations, so Catering Exports Limited, for example, will no longer be considered to be the same as Catering Imports Limited. Other changes will correct a few minor loopholes which were not intended when the previous regulations were made.
  • relax the trading disclosure requirements on the display of company names. Normally, the name must be continuously displayed in an easily-seen place at the company’s registered office or its alternative inspection location and at each of its places of business, but under the new regulations, if there are more than five company names to display at a single site, only a register of the names need be made available for inspection by visitors there.

The new regulations also apply to limited liability partnerships.

The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014

The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015