Beyond the balance sheet

How to choose the company name you want

Graeme Hay 22/7/2015 4 minute read

Graeme Hay of Lightwork Business explains how to choose a name for your company.

As you develop your start-up ideas, choosing a company name will enter your thoughts and this isn't necessarily an easy process. The name you were thinking of may already exist or, you may be searching for an inventive name which grabs attention and quickly attracts business.

Added to that, once you’ve finally made your decision you may find that government rules mean you either can’t choose that particular name or, you’re required to go through a number of steps to justify being allowed to have it.

How to test if you’re ideas are business worthy

Thankfully as part of the government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’, to reduce the administrative burden companies' face, the options for limited company names changed few years ago. Legal changes were made to simplify the rules and reduce the delays and associated costs with registering company and business names. This post looks at the process and how these changes have helped when it comes to selecting your company name.

What are the key company name changes?

1. There are fewer words requiring approval

When deciding on whether to approve your company name application, Companies House checks the words you are planning to use against a list of ‘sensitive words’.

These are ‘words or expressions’ which when used in a company name could imply a business status or specific function. That means they require approval so as to protect the general public from being misled by the name of your business.

Before the 31st January 2015 the most commonly used sensitive words were ones like ‘International’, ‘Group’ and ‘Holding(s)’ and to use these in your company name you needed to provide additional ‘justification’ for why you should be allowed to have them. This often led to delays with the registration process, additional costs and frustrations for business owners.

That list of ‘sensitive words’ has now been reduced and you can now use common words like those in the list below without needing to obtain approval:

  • Authority
  • European
  • Group
  • Holding
  • International
  • National
  • United Kingdom

For example, if you now want to register your company name as ‘Your Company International Limited’ you no longer have to go through the old extra administrative step, which required you to provide a written statement confirming the international countries you intended to be trading within 3 months of incorporation.

2. Use more characters in your company name

The recent changes have also extended the list of permitted characters that can be used in a company name.  Previously only characters in the current Roman alphabet (plus a small number of additional characters) were allowed however, this list has now been extended to allow the use of accents, diacritical marks and ligatures. For example characters such as Æ, Ë, Í, Õ and Û are today all permitted in a company name.

New characters now can be incorporated in the way you choose a company name

3. Words to be ‘ignored’ if a potential company name is the ‘same as’ another

A company name can't be exactly the same as another registered company's name.  The rules which determine whether a new company name is the ‘same as’ as one which already exists have also been altered.

The lists of words to be disregarded has been reduced which again should make it easier for groups of companies to choose company names. And the rules have also been altered to take into the account the new permitted characters (e.g. Æ, Ë, Í etc). 

For example, the character "Ř" will be considered the same as "R", and "É" will be considered the same an "E". As a result, the name "ŘEAL COFFEE CAFÉ LTD" would be considered the same as the "REAL COFFEE CAFE LTD".

A final thought...

As you can see the options for company names has increased so this may give you some insights and spark your creativity to come up with a name that really stands apart and establishes that important connection with your potential customers.

Go ahead – get your creative juices flowing, and choose a limited company name that will be a proud flag bearer for your business and best represent you and your reputation.

And remember if you’ve already got a company name you can now also think about changing it to take advantage of these new rules.

Have you thought of a name for your new business or, are thinking of changing your existing organisation's name? Use this tool to choose a company name to incorporate and see if it is available.


The content of this post is up to date and relevant as at 22/07/2015.

Please be aware that information provided by this blog is subject to regular legal and regulatory change. We recommend that you do not take any information held within our website or guides (eBooks) as a definitive guide to the law on the relevant matter being discussed. We suggest your course of action should be to seek legal or professional advice where necessary rather than relying on the content supplied by the author(s) of this blog.


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