Choosing a name for a new or existing company (or LLP) requires a great deal of thought. In addition to selecting a name that reflects the purpose and values of your business, you must also ensure that the company name is available to register.
Also, you must not include ‘sensitive’ words or expressions, unless you have supporting documentation or get approval from Companies House, and you must ensure you are aware which characters and symbols are allowed.
The rules and regulations governing company names in the UK are set out in the following sources of legislation:
- The Companies Act 2006
- The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015
- The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014
When you are choosing a company name, it is also advisable to check the trade marks register to avoid infringing any existing trade marks, as well as confirming that your company name is available as a domain name.
Permitted characters and symbols
Including certain characters, symbols, signs, or punctuation in a company name is sometimes necessary, but they can also be used creatively to form a visually distinctive name and strong brand identity. Their use, however, should be meaningful and appropriate.
For example, an exclamation mark at the end of the name ‘Yahoo!’ reflects the energy and innovation of the brand, but including an exclamation mark in the name of a company that provides, say, funeral services? Maybe not the best decision.
Part 2 of The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015 sets out the characters, symbols, signs, and punctuation that can be included in the name of a limited company or LLP incorporated in the UK. These are:
- any A-Z alphabetical characters (including characters with accents or other diacritical marks)
- signs and symbols set out in table 1 in Schedule 1 of the regulations, including:
- & (ampersand)
- @ (‘at’ symbol)
- £ (pound sterling sign)
- $ (dollar sign)
- € (euro sign)
- ¥ (yen sign)
- Numerical digits – 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
- full stops, commas, colons, semi-colons, and hyphens
- other punctuation in one of the forms set out in table 2 in Schedule 1, including apostrophes, brackets, exclamation marks, guillemet, inverted commas, question marks, and solidus
- signs and symbols set out in table 3 in Schedule 1, provided they are not used as one of the first three characters in the company name. These are:
- * (asterisk)
- = (equals sign)
- + (plus sign)
- # (hashtag)
- % (percent sign)
To avoid having your proposed company name rejected by Companies House, it is important to understand that some characters, symbols, and signs are considered the ‘same as’ one another, so you cannot simply change certain characters in an attempt to make your company name unlike the name of an existing company on the register.
The permitted characters that are considered the same as each other are:
|Permitted characters||Treated the same as|
|À Á Â Ã Ä Å Ā Ă Ą Ǻ||A|
|Ç Ć Ĉ Ċ Č||C|
|Þ Ď Đ||D|
|È É Ê Ë Ē Ĕ Ė Ę Ě||E|
|Ĝ Ğ Ġ Ģ||G|
|Ì Í Î Ï Ĩ Ī Ĭ Į İ||I|
|Ĺ Ļ Ľ Ŀ Ł||L|
|Ñ Ń Ņ Ň Ŋ||N|
|Ò Ó Ô Õ Ö Ø Ō Ŏ Ő Ǿ||O|
|Ŕ Ŗ Ř||R|
|Ś Ŝ Ş Š||S|
|Ţ Ť Ŧ||T|
|Ù Ú Û Ü Ũ Ū Ŭ Ů Ű Ų||U|
|Ŵ Ẁ Ẃ Ẅ||W|
|Ỳ Ý Ŷ Ÿ||Y|
|Ź Ż Ž||Z|
|2, TWO, TO||TOO|
|%, PER CENT, PERCENT, PER CENTUM||PERCENTUM|
There are, however, some exceptions. The ‘same as’ rule does not apply if:
- the company will be part of the same group as an existing company with the ‘same as’ name; and
- the existing company agrees to the registration of the proposed company name; and
- the application to register the ‘same as’ name includes a letter from the existing company confirming that it consents to the registration of the proposed company name and that it will form part of the same group.
If you have a potential company name that you would like to register or simply add to a shortlist of names that you are considering, use our online company name checker to find out if it is available.