Sensitive Words When Forming A Company
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What Words Can’t Be Used in Your Company Name?

When you come to naming your new company, you probably have a host of great ideas. You want something that tells customers what you do, sounds clever or even funny. You want to stand out from the competition. But there is one other aspect to consider that most company owners don’t realise until they run afoul of Companies House – there are some words you are not allowed to use in your company name.

What you must include

First up, there are the words that you have to include if you are establishing a certain type of business. For example, if you are a limited company then either the word ‘limited’ or the abbreviation ‘Ltd’ needs to be in your company name.

If you are forming a limited liability partnership, then LLP needs to feature while if you are forming a limited partnership then LP needs to be included in the name. If you are creating a public limited company, then either this phrase or the abbreviation ‘plc’ must be incorporated into your name.

You also must make sure you don’t use one of these in your name if you are not registered the corresponding type of business – in other words, saying you are Smith Ltd when you are not a limited company.

Basic name rules

You also need to check that the name isn’t already in use and this is done through Companies House in London. There are also rules about what are classed as ‘same as’ names – so if there is a company called Franks Design, you cannot call yourself Frank’s Designs, as this would be class as the same as the already listed company.

You cannot call your company something that is offensive or could be classed as an offence, although it seems strange to think anyone would want to offend potential customers! You also must ensure that you don’t use any characters, signs, symbols of punctuation that is unaccepted – smiley faces are great for text messages or Facebook but not for company names.

When choosing your company name, beware of anything that could indicate you are something you are not, especially if that something is related to the government, either central or local. You are also not allowed to use a name that makes out you are connect with some kind of public authorities, such as the police, fire service or armed forces.

Sensitive words

The final limitation on what you can name your company comes in the form of the sensitive words. These are a collection of words or phrases that companies cannot use unless they comply with strict criteria, which may be membership of a special governing body for a trade or a specific qualification that has been approved by a trade standard.

  • Accounts commission for Scotland – this can only be used if you have a letter or email confirming it from the Accounts Commission for Scotland
  • Accredit, accreditation, accredited, accrediting – you must have a letter confirming these phrase can be used from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS)
  • Adjudicator – implies a legal role that must be supported with relevant documents
  • Alba, Na h-Alba, Albannach – implies a connection with the Scottish Government or departments
  • Archwilydd, Cyffredinol, Cymru – implies a connection with the Auditor General for Wales and needs a supporting letter
  • Association – implies a company limited by guarantee with a one-member, one-vote clause and non-profit distribution clause in its articles of association
  • Assurance, assurer – letter needed from Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • Audit commission, auditor general – needs a letter from the National Audit Office or similar body
  • Banc, bank, banking – needs a letter confirming status from the FCA
  • Benevolent – only included in a company limited by guarantee that is a registered charity
  • Breatainn, Breatannach, Britain, British – implies connection with the British government, though it can be used if it is your surname, providing it isn’t the first word of the company name, which should be your initials or first name
  • Brenin, Brenhines, Brenhinol, Brenhiniaeth – implies connection to the Welsh government
  • Chamber of – implies connection to any chamber of such as commerce, business or enterprise and relevant letter confirming this is required
  • Charitable, charity – only used for registered charity
  • Charter – implies connecting with royal charter status unless in use such as charter flights or holidays
  • Chartered – implies a professional body has confirmed your qualifications and proof of this is needed i.e. chartered accountant
  • Child maintenance, child support – implies connection with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and letter needed to confirm this
  • Comhairle, coimisean, comisiwn – organisation must be an independent advisory body
  • Commission – organisation must be an independent advisory body
  • Comptroller and auditor general – letter needed from National Audit Office
  • Co-operative, Co-operative Society – society registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefits Societies Act 2014
  • Council, cyngor – organisation must be an independent advisory body
  • Dental, dentistry, dental surgeon, dental practitioner – letter required from the General Dental Council
  • Duke, duchess, diuc, ban-diuc, dug, duges – letter needed from the Protocol Team (Scotland), Public Administration and Honour Unit (Wales) or the Cabinet Office Constitutional Policy Team (England)
  • England, of England, English – implies connection with English government unless this is your name (see Britain)
  • Federation – company should be limited by guarantee
  • Financial conduct authority, financial services authority, financial reporting council – all need to be authorised by letter from the FCA
  • Foundation – must be limited by guarantee company with a pool of money or source of finance that is used to promote objects
  • Friendly society – only used by companies under the Friendly Societies Acts 1974 & 1992
  • Fund – letter required from FCA
  • Government – letter from relevant government department based on business type
  • Health and Safety, Health and Social care, Health centre, health visitor – must have letter from NHS
  • His/her Majesty, King, Queen, Prince, Princess, royal, royalty – letter from the Cabinet Office Constitutional Policy Team
  • House of Commons, House of Lords – letter from the relevant house of parliament
  • Inspectorate – implies a legal role
  • Institute, institution – fully functioning established organisation undertaking research, professional bodies or educational bodies
  • Insurance, insurer, reinsurance, reinsurer, underwriter, underwriter – must have letter from FCA
  • Judicial appointment – must have letter from Ministry of Justice
  • Licensing – letter form relevant body
  • Medical centre, midwife, midwifery, nurse, nursing – letter from Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS)
  • Mutual – must have letter from FCA
  • National Audit Office – must have letter from National Audit Office
  • NHS – must have letter from NHS
  • Northern Ireland – implies connection with government of Northern Ireland, however can be used under certain conditions and if the company has a registered office in the country
  • Ombudsman, ombwdsmon – must be a certified ombudsman under the relevant association
  • Parliament, parliamentarian, parliamentary, parlamaid – must have a better from the Houses of Parliament
  • Patent, patentee – must have a letter confirming patent from the Intellectual Property Office
  • Police – you must have a letter from the Home Office
  • Polytechnic – you must have a letter from the Department for Business, innovation and Skills
  • Post office – you must have a letter from the Post Office
  • Reassurance, assurer – must have a letter from the FCA
  • Registrar – you must have a letter confirming relevant qualification as well as from government body
  • Registered society – can only be used by a society registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014
  • Regulator – must have letter confirming regulatory role as well as from relevant government department
  • Scotland, Scottish – implies a connection with the government of Scotland unless this is your surname (see Britain)
  • Sheffield – must have letter from the Company of Cutlers
  • Society – must be a company limited by guarantee
  • Special school – must have letter from relevant department of education
  • Standards – implies a regulatory role so letter must prove this relevant to the business as well as from the applicable government body
  • Stock exchange – must have letter from the FCA
  • Trade union – trade unions are prohibited from being a registered company and so name cannot be used
  • Tribunal – implies a legal role, must have letter from relevant government body
  • Trust – must provide details of what type of trust, for example charitable trust, employee trust or academy trust
  • University – must have letter from the relevant department for education
  • Wales, welsh – implies connection to the government of Wales unless surname (see Britain)
  • Windsor – must have letter from the Cabinet Office Constitutional Policy Team

Other terms

There are also a number of other terms that may need to be checked before being used in a company name. One example is agency, which can imply a connection with a government body but as long as the name doesn’t do this, will likely be allowed. Finally, there are a category of words and expressions that count as a criminal offence if used. These are primarily occupations such as architect, health care professionals and legal professionals, unless you have the relevant qualifications to use these titles.

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