Choosing a business name

What’s in a name?

Ever thought of using a different name for your existing business? Here is how you can do this. 

Sole traders and partnerships:-

You can trade under your own name, or you can choose any other name for your business. You don’t need to register your name.

You must include your name and business name (if you have one) on official paperwork, for example invoices and letters.

Sole trader names must not:

  • include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • be the same as an existing trade mark

Limited companies:-

You can trade using a different name to your registered name. This is known as a ‘business name’.

Your business name can be useful if you want to create a 'separate' brand.

Business names must not:

  • be the same as an existing trade mark
  • include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • be offensive

Protecting your name

There is no formal registrar of business names, but if you want to stop others from using your business name you will need to register your name as a trade mark.

Companies could also register a second limited company, with the required trading name, and keep it dormant. You will have to pay to incorporate the new company, and file annual, dormant accounts and other returns, but no-one else will be able to register a company with the same name. 

Registering a trade mark can be a drawn out and expensive process, but if you have good reason to protect your business name this may be a worthwhile investment. If you decide to do this, registering a trade mark does not prevent you from also forming a company with the same name, so a combination of the two would be a comprehensive solution.


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