Company formation Registration - HOME

Incorporating a company
Choosing a company name
Sensitive words and expressions
Objections to company names
Directors and secretaries
Public companies
Community Interest Companies
Right To Manage companies and Commonhold Associations
Disclosure of company name and specified other information
Business names
Quality of documents
Further information


Business Names


1. What is a Business Name?

A “business name” is any name under which someone carries on business other than their own. In the case of a company or limited liability partnership, it means a name that is not its registered name; in the case of a sole trader, it means a name other than his surname with or without his forenames or initials; in the case of a partnership, it means a name other than the partners’ names.

We do not register business names, but there are rules to prevent the use of names that could seriously mislead the public. The relevant regulations are:

The Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous) Regulations 2009 (SI2009/1095).
The Company and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009.
There are also rules about the information that must be disclosed on stationery and signs at business premises that apply to sole traders and partnerships using business names. These are in sections 1200-1208 of the Companies Act 2006.

2. To whom do the business names provisions of the Companies Act 2006 apply?

The business names provisions apply to:

an individual who trades under a name which is not his or her surname. It makes no difference whether the individual's first names or initials are added. So the Act would apply to Mr JQZ Singh if he traded as 'Singh Antiques' but not
if he traded as 'Singh' or 'JQZ Singh';
a partnership which uses a specific business name and does not trade under the names of all the partners;
a company or limited liability partnership, which trades under a name which is not its corporate name, for example, 'J Smith Limited' trading as 'Fish Antiques'.


3. Can I choose any name for my business?

There are some controls and restrictions which apply to your choice of business name. You must get the Secretary of State’s approval before using a business name that:

suggests a connection with Her Majesty’s Government or any devolved administration, or any local authority or any specified public authority; or
includes a sensitive word or expression (see chapter 3 and Appendices A & B)
If you use such a name without prior approval, you will be committing an offence and may be subject to a fine.
.
In addition, you must not use a business name if:
its use would constitute a criminal offence (Appendix C is a list of words and expressions whose inappropriate use could be a criminal offence);
it includes words and abbreviations that denote a particular type of business if the business is not of that type. These words and abbreviations include 'limited', “unlimited”, “public limited company”, Community Interest Company”, Limited Partnership”, their Welsh equivalents and their abbreviations with or without full stops.
the name suggests a connection with Her Majesty’s Government or any part of the Scottish administration;
the name suggests a connection with any local authority or any specified public authority;
it includes a sensitive word or expression included in chapter 3 and Appendices A & B without the approval of the Secretary of State.
If your business name is identical or similar to a registered trade mark you may be infringing it if your business deals in identical or similar goods and services to the owner of the registered trade mark and your use of the name creates a likely to confuse the public. Further information about trade marks is included in chapter 2.

4. Do I need to display my business name?

No. But if you use a business name, you must display a sign with:

your and, if relevant, your partners’ names; and
an address in the UK for each person at which service of any document relating to the business will be effective.
in any premises where the business is carried on and where customers, suppliers have business access. This rule applies if the business name were to include your surname or your partners’ surnames together with other words, for example ‘Smith Photographic’.

5. What name must I include in stationery?

If you use a business name, you must include:

your and, if relevant, your partners’ names; and
an address in the UK for each person at which service of any document relating to the business will be effective.
This information must be included in legible characters in all your:

business letters;
written orders for goods or services to be supplied to the business;
business emails;
invoices and receipts issued in the course of the business;
written demands for payment of debts arising in the course of the business.