Company Names: Revised Regulations

On 27 November 2014, the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014 ("Regulations") were published on the Government's website. The Regulations replace the 2009 regulations and introduce a reduced list of the sensitive words and expressions which companies, limited liability partnerships and businesses need approval to use in their name. Interestingly, words such as "National", "European", "Group" and "Holding" have been deleted. In total, 26 words have been deleted including "National", "European", "International" and "United Kingdom".

The Regulations will apply to companies, limited liability partnerships and businesses who seek to change their name or register a new name. They will come into force on 31 January 2015.

A draft of The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2014 ("Draft Regulations") were also published on 27 November 2014. The Draft Regulations replace five sets of regulations and deal with restrictions relating to the registered names of companies, limited liability partnerships, business names and the requirements for making trading disclosures.  In particular, the Draft Regulations:

  • extend the list of characters that can be used in a company name to include accents, diacritical marks and ligatures;
  • amend the words to be considered or disregarded when determining if a name proposed to be registered is the same as another in the registrar's index; and
  • amend the trading disclosures requirements so that if at least six companies share an office, place or location, their registered names may be held and made available for inspection at that venue, rather than having to be displayed at all times.

The Draft Regulations are proposed to come in to force on 31 January 2015, subject to parliamentary approval.

When choosing a company or business name, checks should be made in internet search engines, domain name registries, local phone books, relevant trade journals or magazines, and trade marks registry to see if any other company or business is already using the name. You can use the "Web-check service" on Companies House also. There is no central register of "business" names and accordingly, no requirement to register a business name. It is worth noting that the secretary of state has the power to specify letters, characters, signs or symbols that may or may not be used in certain positions within a name.

If you require any further information, please contact us and ask to speak to a member of our company and commercial team.