Although Companies House regulate the issue of company names as part of the incorporation process, there is no formal Registrar of Business Names. In fact, one of the ways in which it is suggested, on the GOV.UK website, that firms protect a trading name for their company, is the register a company with the trading name and then keep it as dormant…
However, there is a Company Names Tribunal that is set up to:
“…deal with complaints about cases where a company name is registered for the primary purpose of preventing someone else with legitimate interest from registering it, or demanding payment from them to release it.”
The Tribunal works with the Intellectual Property Office.
Sole traders face a further raft of regulation when choosing a business name. Although they do not have to register a business name, they do need to be mindful of certain names they cannot use. For example, a sole trader’s trading name cannot:
- include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
- be offensive
- be the same as an existing trade mark
Also, a name cannot contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression, or suggest a connection with government or local authorities, unless you get permission. An example on the Gov.uk website is:
“To use ‘Accredited’ in your company’s name, you need permission from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).”
It would be difficult for anyone to be denied the use of their name as a business name: John Smith Consultancy etc., but what if two brothers Mark and Spencer set up in business?
Shakespeare would be turning in his grave methinks. In today’s highly regulated world a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it’s creators will no doubt suffer “repercussions” should they try and sell under an existing brand name.