If you are starting a new business, there are many things to tick off your to-do list, from appointing directors to registering a business address and setting up a bank account to take payments. One of the most important steps is naming your company. You may think that securing your company name is an easy process. However, there are a lot of different things to consider when it comes to securing your business’ name.
There is no need to panic, though, as in this guide, we take you through all of the different steps that are involved so that you can secure the perfect name for your business.
Find out whether or not your business name is available
The first thing you need to do before securing your company name is discover whether or not you can choose the business name you are considering. After all, there is nothing worse than getting your heart set on a name, only to discover that another business has already taken it.
When determining whether or not your business name is available, there are three key areas you need to consider.
Firstly, you will need to check on Companies House to determine whether or not the name is available. Next, you need to check whether anyone has already registered a similar business name as a trademark. Thirdly, you will need to purchase a domain name for your company.
So, let’s take a look at each of these important elements of securing your company name in further detail.
1. Is your business name already registered with Companies House?
If you have decided that your legal structure is going to be a limited company, you will need to visit the Companies House website to determine whether or not someone has already registered your business name.
You can do a bit of digging on the Companies House database before securing your company name. Firstly, you want to make sure that the name has not been taken by another business.
Aside from this, there are a couple of other things to look out for when securing your company name. For example, it is important to ensure the name you are interested in is permitted by law, i.e. it should not be offensive or restricted for another reason. Aside from this, you will want to make sure your company name is not too similar to another business’s name, as it could end up causing confusion.
There is not an official approval step when it comes to choosing a company name. You will typically be allowed to use most names. The only general exceptions here are as follows:
- Your name should not be too similar to another company’s name
- You cannot choose a name that has already been taken
- You should not use a name that falls under the sensitive or restricted category
If you do not have any of the problems mentioned above, you should be free to use the name you are considering.
Once you have found a name that you are happy with, you will need to move quickly. After all, new businesses are being established every day in the UK, so the last thing you want to do is miss out on a name you are interested in.
You may fall in love with a name that is available today but there is no guarantee that this will be the case next week, so do keep this in mind when securing your company name.
2. Make sure that the name you are considering has not been trademarked
The second thing you need to do when securing your company name is make sure that the name you are interested in has not been trademarked yet. If you are not familiar with trade marking, you can consider this a badge of origin, so to speak, which will give your customers the ability to recognise items that originate from your business.
Trademarks influence customers’ buying habits, and they can also help in terms of generating brand loyalty.
Once you know that you can use the name you want to use, you should check out the Intellectual Property Office. By heading here, you will be able to make sure that the name you are considering has not been trademarked. You can also make sure it is not included in a fresh trademark application. This is particularly vital if you intend on trademarking your brand’s name.
It can take a lot of time to search for a trademark manually. You need to do a number of searches via multiple platforms. For example, you should look at international and UK trademark registries, as well as social media platforms, app stores, company directories, and Google.
Once you have accumulated all of the material you need, you will need to go through the process of sorting and scrutinising to assess the risk and put together a final report. Only then are you going to be able to determine whether or not the name you are interested in is available and is not subject to a registered trademark.
One approach that you can use to lower the risk of missing a result and to significantly lower the expense of a trademark clearance search is to use the services of a solicitor who has machine learning and AI tools that can search through a whole host of online directories and registries within just a matter of seconds.
Even if you do select a business name that has not been trademarked, you need to make sure that the feel and look of your brand are not too similar to a brand that already exists. This is known as passing-off, and it could lead to a claim being made against your business.
Intellectual property disputes can cost a lot of money. Therefore, if you are not sure about trademark protection or you are worried that your business could end up being accused of passing off, it makes sense to get legal aid before you decide on a company name that you are going to move forward with.
3. Check that the domain name you are interested in is available
Having a strong online presence is a necessity for businesses today. It does not matter whether you have a physical presence or your service cannot be delivered online, you still need to make sure that people can search for your business with ease online, which makes your securing your domain important as well as securing your company name.
If you are not able to purchase a domain name that is similar to your business’s name, it could end up causing confusion and diluting your brand.
There are a number of reputable domain name providers that you can use to see if your chosen domain name can be purchased or not. Examples include the likes of 123 Reg, GoDaddy, and Google Domains.
If the domain name you are interested in is available, you will need to purchase it. There will be a yearly fee for this. Do be mindful, as some companies will charge a tiny fee for the first year, and then the price will increase considerably in the following years, so do keep this in mind when you are deciding where to purchase your domain name from.
You may be wondering whether you should purchase the .com or .co.uk domain for your business. We would advise that you purchase both. This can make sure that there is not any sort of confusion. Plus, if someone searches your website, they will end up in the right place irrespective of they use .co.uk or .com.
Of course, if .co.uk and .com are not available, there are plenty of other options available as well. However, you need to determine whether it would be better to go for a different domain name, or whether it is better to choose a different ending.
If you cannot find a suitable domain name for the business name you have selected, or the webspace is very crowded, it may make more sense to reconsider your choice of business name.
Is your business name available on social media?
Not only do you need to consider your online presence in terms of your domain name, but you will also want to grow your brand on social media, right?
Social media is growing in importance because it gives you the ability to get closer to your customers than ever before.
However, as the online space becomes more and more competitive, it becomes increasingly difficult for businesses to stand out from the crowd. So, it makes sense to do a little bit of digging online and make sure your name is available on the social media platforms you want to be present on.
Make sure your business name does not get rejected
- If the business name is the same as another name that appears in the Registrar’s Index of Company Names
- The only exception to this is if the name has been chosen to form part of the same group as the company name that has already been registered
- If the business name is offensive, in the Secretary of State’s opinion
- If the use would constitute a criminal offence, in the Secretary of State’s opinion
There are some business names that will need to have permission from the Secretary of State, and in some cases, other authorities. This would be the case if there are sensitive expressions or words featured in the name, or if the name implies that there is a link between the company and any public authority, such as a local authority or the government.
Could you be required to change your business name in the future?
Once you have made your registration, it is possible that you could be ordered to change your company name. Although this does not happen often, it could occur if there is a complaint made on the grounds that:
- You have been deemed to have made an opportunistic registration. This happens when your company’s name is the same as a name that is linked with the complainant whereby they have goodwill or the name is similar to the point whereby it is likely to mislead, suggesting there is a connection between the applicant and the company.
- The business no longer justifies omitting “Limited” from the end of the name.
- The business name you have selected gives a misleading suggestion of the business’s activities, which are likely to cause harm to the public.
- When you registered the name you gave misleading or incorrect information to support the use of a sensitive expression or word.
- The name you have registered is too similar to an existing name on the index.
Consider setting up a limited company when securing your company name
If you register a business name at Companies House, this means that the name you have selected cannot be registered by any other company. However, there are a number of business name rules that you are going to need to comply with when securing your company name. For example, you need to include “Ltd” or “Limited” at the end or it should not feature any sensitive words.
Critically, when it comes to protecting and securing your company name, the name you select cannot be the same as another business name. Even if the name is slightly different, it will not be allowed if it is considered too similar to another name.
- ‘Same as’ name – This refers to a company name whereby the only difference to an existing name is either…
- Certain special characters or punctuation
- Characters or words that are commonly used in business names or characters or words that are similar in appearance or meaning to those in the existing name
- ‘Too like’ name – This could happen if someone complains that a name is too similar to their business name. Companies House will ultimately make the decision on whether or not this is the case.
Registering your company name as a trademark
Registering a trademark is another way you can go about protecting a company name. A trademark will give the owner exclusive rights to market or sell services and products utilising this trade mark. At the same time, others will be prevented from using the same or similar marks to market their items.
A trademark can be a company name, brand name, colour, font, logo, word, or a combination thereof. The Trade Marks Act of 1994 currently governs all of the trademarks registered in the country at present.
There are a number of different places whereby you can register your trademark, including the following:
- You can register your trademark at the Intellectual Property Office for protection in the UK
- You can also register the trademark at the local trademarks registry in other countries if you want to protect it around the world
- There is a European Community Trade Mark registry, whereby you will pay one fee and make one application in order to protect your trade mark throughout the EU
- You can also protect it under the Madrid Protocol, which again involves one fee and one application to protect your trademark in all of the countries that are signatories to the Madrid Protocol
- In some countries, the fact that you have registered your trademark in the UK will mean that local registration is pretty much guaranteed
- You may need to register your trademark in more than one of the 45 classes of services and goods, so do keep this in mind
In terms of the Intellectual Property Office, it will cost you £200 to make an application for one class, and then you will need to pay a further £50 for every subsequent class. You can expect the trademark to be registered within four to six months.
Monitor for infringers and deal with them appropriately
Think about using a “watching” service that can monitor various domain name registries, Companies House, and the trademarks registry for any infringers. Whenever a similar or identical name is applied for or registered, you will receive a notification so that you can then take the required action to ensuring you’re securing your company name.
It also makes sense to monitor informally as well, which is something that a lot of these businesses will do for you. This includes monitoring the Yellow Pages and trade press, as well as using search engines to look for mentions of any similar names or the same names that have been used on the Internet. It is also a good idea to listen for any news on the grapevine from suppliers, business partners, customers, and others.
How can you deal with any infringers?
It is important to take quick and effective action if you notice any name infringements. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it will be, as it can appear as you have simply accepted the infringements.
There are a number of different courses of action that are available to you if you spot an infringement. Here are some of the options that you will have at your disposal:
- Initiate one of the domain name dispute resolution procedures.
- Object to the Company Names Tribunal to the registration of a similar name or the same name as a limited company name. This is because it is either so similar to your name that it could mislead people into believing that there is a connection between your business and the company in question, or it could be because it is the same as the one in which you have goodwill.
- If you have already registered a limited company name, you can object to a new business registration in the same name as yours.
- You may want to take the route of objecting to the company’s trade mark application.
What is a “common law” trademark?
If you have developed goodwill for your business name, including designs, logos, and such like, within your market, then you acquire rights that the courts will recognise and protect. This is what is known as a “common law” trademark.
The more that you use the name, the more likely it is going to be that you will create a reputation to the point whereby the courts will protect it.
If someone else begins using your name, you will be able to bring a “passing off” action in the courts that your common law trademark is protected against anyone who wants to use it or something similar to it in such a manner that causes the public to believe that the services and goods that they are being offered are coming from your business. They do not need to have done this on purpose.
Should you win, the court can order the infringer to destroy the infringing products or to hand them over to you. They may also order that the infringer is not able to use your mark again and they may even need to pay you any of the profits they have made as a result. You may also be awarded damages based on your loss.
However, it is important to note that passing off actions are costly, complicated, and lengthy. You will need to prove that a considerable portion of the public have been confused due to the passing off, which will usually involve conducting a survey and showcasing the results in court so that you can prove that this has been the case.
Final words on securing your company name
Hopefully, we have now given you everything that you need to know about securing your company name. We hope that this has given you a better understanding of the steps that you should take when it comes to choosing and securing a name for your business. We know that it can be challenging but it is important to carefully follow the steps mentioned above so you can make sure that you don’t choose a name that is rejected or ends up needing to be changed in the future.
If you need help at any point when setting up your busines and choosing its name, why not check out our Limited Company Package, which could take on much of the hard work of registering and setting up your brand new company, ensuring you’re primed for success.