December 16, 2014

What’s in a name? Key changes to company name restrictions

Naming your business

The Government’s “Red Tape Challenge” has resulted in significant changes being proposed to the existing company name restrictions by way of the Company, Limited Liability Partnership, Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, these Regulations come into force on 31 January 2015. They will apply to all companies and limited liability partnerships who seek to change their names, or any application to register a new company or LLP name.

Key changes

  1. The list of characters that can be used in a company name is to be extended. It will now include various accents, diacritical marks, signs or symbols.
  2. Words on the “same as” list are being reduced. Words that have been deleted include "Export", "Group", "Holdings", "Imports", "International", and "Services”. The implication being that if “ABC Limited” is registered, it would no longer prevent a third party incorporating “ABC Holdings Limited”.
  3. The list of “sensitive” words and expressions is being reduced. The list of “prohibited words” is being reduced, words such as "National", "European", "Group", "Holding", "International” and "United Kingdom" will be permitted without companies having to satisfy certain criteria, or contact relevant bodies to determine whether they object to the use of the word.

James Worrall from RWK Goodman’s Corporate & Commercial team comments: “While the efforts to speed up the company incorporation process are understandable, the risks these changes pose to existing companies are significant. ABC Limited being unable to stop a third party registering ABC Holdings Limited or ABC Group Limited seems unfair and has the potential to confuse third parties dealing with these companies. It makes brand protection an even more pressing concern for businesses. All businesses should look to register their business brand as a trade mark to maximise the protection that they have.”

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