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Company Names and the Company Names Tribunal

When starting a new business venture choosing a name for your business or brand is essential. Businesses need to make the right impression as it will be one of the first things a customer or client will see when dealing with your business.

A new business should take extra care when choosing a name as there could be serious implications should a business name be chosen that it too similar or the name to another business’ name.

Companies House has a useful tool (Company name availability checker)which lists other UK registered companies that they would consider the same or similar as another company already registered.

 

Does a company have to use the word “Limited”?

The names of private limited companies registered at Companies House must end in “Limited” or “Ltd” unless they are exempt (section 59 of the Companies Act 2006).

However, it is possible to trade using a different name to a company’s registered name. For example, a business called Smith Jones might be called Smith Jones Ltd or could be ABC Ltd trading as Smith Jones.

Care should be taken to avoid using trading names that are the same or similar to existing trade marks or other established businesses.

It is therefore important to carry out thorough checks of the market your business will be operating in before choosing a name. We would recommend carrying out searches on internet search engines, domain name registries, local phone books, relevant trade journals or magazines and the UK Intellectual Property Office, before choosing a name.

 

What can I do if someone has registered a company name similar to mine?

Initial registration of a company name does not guarantee that it is protected from challenge by a third party.

A company name can be challenged for one or more of the following reasons:

Firstly, the Secretary of State may, within 12 months of registration, direct a company to change its name and register the new company name at Companies House within a specified time if the name registered is the same as or in the opinion of the Secretary of State is “too like” another registered name (section 67 of the Companies Act 2006).

Secondly, any person (not just a company) may apply to a company names adjudicator if a company’s name is the same as a name associated with the objector in which they have goodwill or where the name is sufficiently similar to such a name that it would be likely to mislead (section 69 of the Companies Act 2006).

An action under section 69 is made to the Company Names Tribunal on Form CNA1.

To successfully defend an action made to the Company Names Tribunal the Respondent company would need to show either:-

    • the name was registered before the activities that the objector relies on to show goodwill, were begun; or
    • the Respondent company is operating under the name or is proposing to do so and has incurred substantial start-up costs or was formerly operating under the name and is now dormant; or
    • the name was registered in the ordinary course of a company formation business and the company is available for sale to the objector on the standard terms of that business.

Thirdly, Passing Off.

Fourthly, Trade Mark Infringement.

 

If you have any questions about company names, passing off, trade marks or to discuss how we could help, please contact the Brand Protection team.

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Trade Names and Passing Off

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A trading name or business name is the name used by either a person, partnership or a company for carrying on business which is not the same as their own name.

UK Trade Mark Infringement

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Once a trade mark is registered, the owner has the exclusive right to use the mark in the UK. This allows an owner to stop others from using their mark or a confusingly similar mark in relation to the goods and services that their mark was registered for.

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