Registering a Business Name in the UK: The Ultimate Guide

Registering a Business Name in the UK
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There are many benefits to registering your business name and a few different options available to business owners looking to maximise this important asset. Start.biz have been helping budding entrepreneurs set up and protect their businesses for over 37 years. In this article, we’ll outline how to pick the perfect name, why you should register it and which protection is best for your situation and type of business.

How to Pick Your Business Name

As intellectual property (IP) protection and business set-up specialists, we understand how valuable a strong business name can be to the success of your venture. Some entrepreneurs have picked a name before they’ve chosen what the company will do, but others struggle with the decision. Over the years, we have registered thousands of business names and know the common pitfalls. In this section, we’ll outline what laws you need to be aware of, vital research to undergo and how the different types of brand protection should affect your decision process.

Are there any rules when naming my business?

Yes, there are laws in place in the UK to prevent offensive or misleading names from being used.

  • Words that make your business sound like it is affiliated with the UK government or an official body cannot be used, for example, ‘British’, ‘National’, or ‘Parliament’. This is designed to prevent companies from marketing themselves as a governing body or influencing customers to buy because they believe it is a legal requirement for them to do so. Permissions can be applied for, but it is at the relative authorities’ discretion whether you will be allowed to use these words or not.
  • Similarly, you can’t include a word that would be used to denote a status, like ‘charity’ or ‘trust’, unless you have officially registered as such.
  • Restrictions also apply for accredited professions requiring a qualification, such as ‘Solicitors‘ or ‘Patent Agents’.
  • Finally, there are regulations to hinder offensive names from being registered. This is one to watch if you are choosing a pun name for your business.

Test Your Business Name

Ask friends, family and colleagues about your potential business name to gain some insight into how potential customers might receive it. Listen to people’s feedback objectively, especially if they are your target audience. They may notice something that you haven’t. A good way to break it down is by doing the ‘Hear/Speak/See’ test.

  • Hear – your name needs to be easy to understand and have a memorable element to make it stick in people’s heads.
  • Speak – it needs to be simple to say and have a nice flow to the words. If folk enjoy saying the name, they will enjoy telling people about it.
  • See – does it work visually? This will play into your branding and logo design.
register business name

 

Registered Name vs Trading Name

The main benefit of forming a company is that you limit your personal liability.

When setting up your business, you may wish to form a limited company with Companies House in the UK. The main benefit of forming a company is that you limit your personal liability, so your personal assets are not jeopardised if the venture runs up debts. However, limited businesses do require slightly more paperwork and administration than being a sole trader. To find out which is best for you, please read our article comparing both here. No two businesses with the same name can be registered with Companies House, so you will first need to check if your chosen name is available. You also do not need to ‘trade’ under the name you have registered with HMRC. This means that your business can have a limited name. For example, ‘National Business Register Group Limited’ is our company name, but we operate under the brand name ‘Start.biz’. It’s an important distinction to make if you are going to set up a business with multiple brands underneath it. These brand names will still be subject to intellectual property law, so it’s worth checking them out to ensure you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s current IP.

Why Should You Register Your Business Name?

Registering and protecting your business name from the start is the best way to ensure there are no IP issues further down the line. However, we appreciate this isn’t always how it works. If you have been trading for a while with no IP protection, we advise getting in touch with an expert to evaluate and advise on the best way forward.

Protect the Brand You’re Building

he most immediate benefit of registering your business name is that you are taking proactive steps to protect your name from being copied. However, simply registering your company may not be the whole story. Many forms of IP protection need to be applied for separately to ensure you are fully covered and reap the most from your hard work. Companies can register at Companies House with confusingly similar names and benefit from your reputation. Similarly, if you have no IP protection in place, persuading another company to change its name or branding can be a long and expensive process.

Enhances Your Reputation

Having a trade mark or other form of IP protection adds prestige and validity to your business.

Having a trade mark or other form of IP protection adds prestige and validity to your business in the eyes of customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. It also gives you peace of mind that when you’re building your brand, you won’t need to change it further down the line if someone disputes your IP ownership. IP protection also acts as a fantastic deterrent to potential copycats.

Future-proofing Your Business

Whatever your entrepreneurial goals are with your business, having a solid foundation is key to growing a thriving company. No venture is without risk; however, preventing legal battles and disputes over branding, business names, or logos is a great way to avoid costly problems down the road. Also, when it comes time to seek investment or sell the business, your brand will become one, if not the most, valuable asset the business owns.

How to Register Your Business Name in the UK

You’ve trusted the process and come up with the perfect name for your business. What is the best way to register it? This depends on a few factors. The main factor will be what status your business has and how much budget you have available. In this section, we’ll detail the three most common ways to register and protect your business name within the UK.

Business Name Registration (BNR) from Start.biz

BNR is a unique service from Start.biz and the National Business Register that protects your business name from ‘Passing Off’. The common law of ‘Passing Off’ stands to protect a trader’s goodwill and business against copying. Anyone can bring an action of ‘Passing Off’; however, with BNR, all representation, administration and legal fees up to £10,000 are covered. Business Name Registration is ideal for sole traders, limited companies and freelancers looking to protect their name and reputation. Find out how you can be protected for £100 per year here.

Forming a Limited Company

In the UK, you can register a business with Companies House, preventing anyone else from forming a limited company with exactly the same name. However, this doesn’t stop companies with similar names from registering. Seeking advice from a formation agent is advisable, as well as conducting some research into your competitors’ trading names.

Register a Trade Mark

Trade marks are something that customers recognise and associate with your good reputation.

A trade mark is a type of Intellectual Property (IP) connected with a particular company, product or service. Trade marks are something that customers recognise and associate with your good reputation and the quality of your product or service. These could be words, names, logos or designs. To register a trade mark in the UK, you have to make an application to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The process takes around 5 months, and your mark can be objected to and denied with no refund. We would always advise consulting an IP expert when applying to register a trade mark. They will be able to fill out the forms, advise on the likelihood of registration and defend your application against objections. Start.biz are trade mark specialists and have successfully registered thousands of marks for business owners, find out more here.

Conclusion

There are a few different ways to register your business in the UK. The best option for you depends on how you plan to run your company and what level of protection you need. Registering your business and your IP not only protects your business from imitation but also adds integrity, prestige and value–authenticating a brand’s identity. We would always recommend seeking professional advice when setting up your business to ensure your company is compliant and properly registered. This will put in place a solid foundation from which you can grow your business.

Summary

  • When picking a business name, you have to adhere to a set of UK laws that do not allow for offensive or misleading names.
  • Before putting your business name out, it is always recommended to first test it and see how it is received. Asking a friend, family or colleague can help. Feedback lets you determine if your name is easy to understand, simple to say, and looks good.
  • There is a difference between a registered name and a trading name. The registered name is for official purposes, whereas the trading name is used for business.
  • Registering your business name comes with many benefits. The most immediate benefit is you protect your name against copying.
  • Registering the business name also adds prestige and validity to your business in the eyes of the customer. Moreover, it future-proofs your business by reducing the likelihood of potential legal battles and disputes.
  • Business Name Registration (BNR) is a service from Start.Biz and the National Business Register that protects your business name.
  • In the UK, you can register a business with Companies House and thus prevent others from using the exact same name as yours.
  • To register a trade mark in the UK, you have to make an application to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)

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