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Sensitive words and expressions


1. What are sensitive words and expressions?

These are words and expressions which, when included in a company name, may imply business pre-eminence, a particular status or a specific function. For this reason, you must seek approval of the Secretary of State before the proposed company can be incorporated (or requesting a change to a company’s name). The aim is to ensure that the inclusion of the word is justified so that its use in the name does not mislead the public. Companies House administers the approval process on behalf of the Secretary of State.

2. Is there a list of sensitive words?

If you choose a name that includes any of the words listed in Appendix A, you will need to provide supporting information with the ‘Application to register a company’ (Form IN01) which will allow the Secretary of State to consider whether or not to approve the name. Further information is included in question 3.

If you choose a name that includes any of the words in Appendix B, you will need to write to the 'relevant body' to ask whether they have any objection to the proposed name and deliver a copy of the response with to your application. Further information is included in question 3.

The words and expressions included in Appendix C are subject to different legislation and any inappropriate use of such words in a company name could be a criminal offence. If you wish to include one of these words in your company name, you should contact the relevant regulatory authority or ask us for advice.

If you are uncertain about the use of a specific word in a name you can contact us on 0303 1234 500.

3. What types of words and expressions are sensitive?

The following words imply national or international pre-eminence:

British: You would need to show that the company is pre-eminent in its field by providing supporting evidence from an independent source such as a government department, trade association or other representative body.

The level of pre-eminence in a name that includes ‘British’ depends on the impact created by the other words in the name. Usually the sense of pre-eminence reduces if the overall name does not describe a product, but you would still have to show that your company is substantial in its field even if this was not described in the company name.
National: The criteria for use of this word is the same as for 'British'
England, English, Scotland, Scottish, Wales, Welsh, Ireland or Irish: If one of these words appears as the prefix to a name, the requirements are similar to those for 'British'. If you intend to use, for example, 'of England’ in the name this could also imply pre-eminence in the field.

If you intend to use one of these words in the middle of a name or as the last word in a name this would normally be acceptable provided you can demonstrate that the company has its main place of business in the country concerned. If you want to use one of these words because it is a surname, you will usually be given approval if the company name includes forenames or initials.
Great Britain or United Kingdom: If you wish to use these expressions at the start of a name or if you intend to use 'of Great Britain' or 'of the United Kingdom' at the end of the name, the requirements are similar to those for ‘British’. Using the initials 'GB' or 'UK' in your company name does not require approval.
European: We will not approve names which include this word if they unjustifiably imply a connection with official bodies of the European Union. If there is a genuine connection with an official body, we may allow the name if the appropriate body provides written support for the application.
International: If you wish to use this word as the first word in a name, you need to show that the major part of the company's activities is in trading overseas. If you wish to use it anywhere else in the name we will usually approve it if you can show that the company operates in two or more overseas countries.
The following words imply business pre-eminence or representative or authoritative status:

Association, Federation or Society: If you wish to use one of these words, your company must normally be limited by guarantee. Each member should have one vote and the constitution should contain a non-profit distribution clause. This provides that the company must use any profits to further the objects of the company and not pay them to the members as dividends.
Authority, Board or Council: If you want to use any of these words, you should contact Companies House Cardiff, Edinburgh, or Belfast depending on where the company is to be incorporated.
Institute or Institution: We normally only approve these words for those organisations which are carrying out research at the highest level or to professional bodies of the highest standing. You will need to show us that there is a need for the proposed institute and that it has appropriate regulations or examination standards. You will need evidence of support from other representative and independent bodies.
Government: We will only grant approval for the use of this word in a name if we are satisfied it does not give the impression that the company is connected with Her Majesty’s Government, any part of the Scottish or Welsh administrations, or any overseas government. We will take the whole company name into consideration and judge it on its own merits.
HSC or HPSS: These stand for Health and Social Care and Health and Personal Social Services. We may consult DHSSPS (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety) when considering the approval of names containing this word as it could foster a misleading impression among patients, service users and wider public that the business enjoys an approved status in connection with the Health and Social Care or Personal Social Services.
The following words imply specific objects or functions:

Assurance, Assurer, Insurance, Insurer, Re-Assurance, Re-Assurer, Re-insurance or Re-insurer: If the name is for an underwriting company, we will normally seek further advice. However, if you want to use the name for a company that will only provide insurance services, you should include the appropriate qualification, for example 'agents', 'consultants' or 'services', in the name.
Benevolent, Foundation or Fund: We will not approve names that include any of these words if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company has charitable status. If the company is limited by guarantee and has a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association, we will normally approve the name.
Charter or Chartered: We will not approve names that include these words if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company has a Royal Charter. If you use the words to qualify a profession, we will seek the advice of the appropriate governing body before considering whether to give approval.
Charity or Charitable: To use these words the company must provide a letter of non-objection from the ‘Charity Commission’ or ‘The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)’. If the company is not intended to be a charity, you must send a copy of the proposed memorandum and articles of association along with details of the company activities and an explanation of why the word is required to the Charity Commission or the OSCR.
Chemist or Chemistry: If you want to use these words, you should ask for advice from Companies House in Cardiff , Edinburgh or Belfast as appropriate.
Co-operative: If you wish to use this word, your company's Articles of Association should follow the rules generally associated with co-operatives in the UK. If you need further advice you should contact Companies House in Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast as appropriate.
Friendly Society or Industrial and Provident Society: We will refer names which include these expressions to the Registrar of Friendly Societies for advice. If you need further advice you should contact Companies House in Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast as appropriate.
Group: If use of this word implies several companies under one corporate ownership, you will need to provide evidence of a parent and/or subsidiary association with two or more other British or overseas companies. If the name clearly shows that the company is to promote the interests of a group of individuals, then the name will normally be approved.
Holding(s): A company wishing to use this word must be a holding company as defined under section 1159 (2) of the Companies Act 2006.
Patent or Patentee: We will only approve a name including either word if it does not infringe the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.
Post Office: These words are registered trade marks of the Royal Mail group and we will seek advice on applications that include these words.
Register or Registered: We treat every application for use of these words on its merits. Generally, we will seek advice from the appropriate governing body if names that include these words relate to a professional qualification. We will not register the name if it unjustifiably implies a connection with Her Majesty’s Government or a local authority. If there is a connection we will register the name if the appropriate body supports the application.
Sheffield: If you wish to use a name that includes the word 'Sheffield', we will need to establish details of the company's location and its business activities. We will also consult the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.
Stock Exchange: We will not approve names including this expression unless there are special circumstances.
Trade Union: We will not approve names including this expression unless they conform to legislation relating to trade unions.
Trust: The word 'trust' can be used to suit a range of different situations and the requirements for such trusts are explained below:

Charitable Trust - these companies need to have charitable objects and a non-profit distribution clause in the Articles of Association. We will ask you for confirmation that you have made, or will make, an application for registration as a charity with the Charity Commission. Scottish companies wishing to use the expression 'charitable trust' will need to apply to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in Edinburgh as the Charity Commission has no jurisdiction in Scotland.
Educational trust or Artistic Trust - such companies should have a non-profit distribution clause in the Articles of Association and the name should reflect the nature of the trust. The promoters should be of high standing in the field.
Enterprise Trust - these companies must have a non-profit distribution clause in the Articles of Association and they must be able to provide evidence of support from, for example, local authorities, businesses or banks.
Family Trust - such companies must be non-profit distributing and the objects must reflect the nature of the trust. Names of family trusts will usually be approved if the name as a whole identifies the company as a family trust.
Financial Trust or Investment Trust - if you wish to use these expressions, you will need to provide a written assurance that substantial paid-up share capital or other funds will be achieved within a reasonable period after incorporation.
Pensions or Staff Trust - the names of such companies must include the name of the parent company, and the objects of the company must include the operation of pension funds.
Unit Trust - if you wish to use this as part of your company name, you should seek the advice of Companies House in Cardiff or if the company is to be registered in Scotland, Companies House in Edinburgh.