A few things to bear in mind when selecting a name for a company or LLP.
First, is the name available? – names can be checked at Companies House. Its worth noting that some names are restricted, eg
- If they are too similar to other names – http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/about/gbhtml/gp1.shtml#ch6
- If they are sensitive, eg implying connection to government or a regulated profession – http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/about/gbhtml/gp1.shtml#ch7
- If they imply Royal Patronage
It tends to be the similarity to other registered names that causes problems – simply adding “Company” for example doesn’t change a name, so “Wizard Limited” and “The Wizard Company Limited” would be regarded as one and the same.
However this similarity issue only applies to the Companies House registration, not to trading names – so If Wizard Limited exists, you could form Potter Limited and trade as Wizard.
There is no central registry of business trading names any more – for sole traders, companies or partnerships, protections for names are now a legal matter and enforced through the courts though a doctrine known as “passing off”
Best illustrated with an example:
- Harold opened “Harolds Garage” – however he used a stylised green font very similar to “Harrods”- the courts considered this to be passing off and prohibited the use of the name.
- Mr Forte opened a cafe called “Forte’s tea rooms” – TrustHouse Forte (in those days a well known hotel chain) objected, but their objection was not upheld – Mr Forte was not pretending to be THF in anyway, he was just using his name.
The key issue is avoiding causing confusion in the public eye.
Be aware please of scam companies operating name registry services which are both intended to look official and charge significant fees – ignore these, there is no official UK registry other than Companies House.
When choosing a company name, its always worth checking on the availability of domains as well.