If you are setting up a limited company with your own choice of name you need to
check the company name at Companies House. The formation of a UK limited company
is only allowed if the company name is not already
in use. An own name limited company registration must also pass a sensitive name check at Companies House.
Certain words are restricted for use in the formation of a UK limited company name
unless they can be justified to the satisfaction of Companies House. These are known
as sensitive words.
As part of the company formation process you can check a company name here and we will perform a sensitive word check at
Our staff will be able to guide you if you wish, but your attention is drawn to Companies House guidance with effect from 1st October 2009 , which we have listed below for ease of reference.
The content below has been taken from Companies House guidance notes
Before choosing a name you may wish to check the Trade Marks Register of the UK
Intellectual Property Office to ensure that the proposed company name is not identical
or similar to an existing trade mark. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the
name you choose will not impinge upon a business name that is neither a trade mark
nor registered at Companies House. A third party may in all cases issue civil proceedings
for "passing off." These are not common occurrences but it is something
you should bear in mind. In the event that the name you have chosen faces a challenge
we recommend that you take appropriate professional advice.
Before you incorporate your company you will need to choose a name. The name you
choose must not be identical or the "same as" another name appearing on
the index of company names, even if you are already using the name as a sole trader
The characters and punctuation that can be used in a company's name are specified
in regulations. While accents may not be included in a company's registered
name, this does not prevent their being included in the company's stationery.
You will only have to seek prior approval for a company's name if it includes
a specified word or expression or it implies a connection with Her Majesty's
Government or a devolved administration or a local authority or a specified official
You cannot reserve a name. We cannot guarantee to process applications in strict
order of the time or date of their receipt and in general we process applications
sent by electronic software filing more quickly than paper applications.
Choosing a company name
Can I choose any name I want for my proposed company?
If your company is:
- a private limited company - its name must end in "limited"
or, if its registered office is in Wales, in "cyfyngedig" or in the permitted
alternatives, ie "ltd" or "cyf". There is an exception to this
rule: a private company limited by guarantee can apply for an exemption if:
- the objects of the company are the promotion or regulation of commerce, art, science,
education, religion, charity or any profession, and anything incidental or conducive
to any of those objects;
- the company's articles:
- require its income to be applied in promoting its objects
- prohibit the payment of dividends, or any return of capital, to its members; and
- require each member to contribute to the assets of the company if it is wound up
during the time that he is a member or within 1 year of him ceasing to be a member
- a private unlimited company - its name may end in "unlimited"
but it is not required to do so;
- a public limited company -its name must end in "public limited
company" or, if its registered office is in Wales, in "cwmni cyfyngedig
cyhoeddus" or in the permitted alternatives, ie "plc" or "ccc"
with or without full stops.
There are a number of controls and restrictions which apply to the main part of
your company's name. These are set out in 'The Company and Business Names
(Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009' (SI 2009/1085). Further information
on restricted and sensitive names is included in chapter 3. Companies House administers
these controls on behalf of the Secretary of State and we will not register a company
in a name if:
- its use would constitute an offence or it is offensive;
- the name suggests a connection with Her Majesty's Government or a devolved administration
or a local authority or certain specified public authorities
- it includes a sensitive word or expression unless certain tests are satisfied and
you provide a statement of support by the appropriate government department or other
official body. (see chapter 3)
- it includes characters, signs, symbols and punctuation which are not permitted.
A list of permitted characters, signs, symbols and punctuation is included in 'The
Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009' (SI2009/1085);
- it is identical to another name appearing on the index of company names or differs
from an another name in a trivial way, ie is effectively the "same as"
an existing name. (A name that is effectively the "same as" another's
may still be permitted if the two companies will be part of the same group and if
the existing company agrees to the other taking the proposed name.) Further information
about "same as" names is provided in question 2.
- it does not end with the appropriate designator (or permitted abbreviation) for
the company type (e.g. "limited" or "ltd"; "public limited
company" or "plc"; "unlimited");
- if any of the designators "limited", "ltd", "unlimited",
"cyfyngedig", "cyf", "anghyfyngedig" is used but:
- one or more characters have been omitted;
- one or more characters, symbols signs or punctuation has been added; or
- any one or more of these characters have been replaced with one or more other characters,
symbols, signs or punctuation
- if, in the case of a company limited by guarantee exempt from using "limited",
the name concludes with "unlimited" or "anghyfyngedig" or one
of the words or expressions (or permitted abbreviation) set out in (a) to (f) below
in such a way as to mislead the public as to the legal form of the company if included
in the registered name of the company.
- if, in the case of an unlimited company, the name concludes with "limited"
or "cyfyngedig" or one of the words or expressions (or permitted abbreviations)
set out in (a) to (f) below in such a way as to mislead the public as to the legal
form of the company if included in the registered name of the company.
- If the name includes in any part of the name any of the expressions or abbreviations
in (g) to (u) below
What does 'same as' mean?
A name is the 'same as' another name appearing on the index of company names
if it is either identical to an existing name or would be deemed to be essentially
the same because the name differs only by minor elements which the law requires
us to disregard when comparing the two names. For example, we would disregard plurals
or certain types of punctuation marks when comparing names.
Examples of what we will disregard or ignore when comparing names are:
- any of the designated name endings (including permitted abbreviations with or without
full stops or their welsh equivalents) set out in question 1 above, for example,
"limited", "unlimited", "public limited company" or
"community interest company";
- words and expressions such as "biz", "co", "co uk",
"co.uk", "com", "company", "UK", "United
Kingdom", "Wales", "Cymru", "net", "GB",
"Great Britain", "org.uk", "services", "international"
(but see question 3 of this chapter for circumstances when these will not be ignored);
- a blank space between or after a word, expression, character, sign or symbol;
- punctuation including a full stop, comma, colon, semi colon, hyphen, apostrophe,
bracket, exclamation mark, question mark;
- permitted characters "*", "=", "#", "%"
and "+" if they are used as one of the first three characters in a name
- "s" at the end of a name;
- "the" and "www" at the beginning of a name
- any but the first 60 characters in a name
In addition, we will treat certain words and expressions as if they were the same,
eg "and" and "&", "plus" and "+", "1"
and "one", "6" and "six", "€" and "euro",
"$" and "dollar", "%" and "percent", "@"
The 'same as' rules are included in 'The Company and Business Names
(Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009' (SI2009/1085) which we strongly
advise you to read before you apply to incorporate your chosen name.
Please note, the "same as" rules do not prevent someone else trading under
a name that is the same as a company's registered name in all respects excepting
only the designator (eg "ltd").
Are there any exceptions to the 'same as' rules?
Yes. Where 2 companies are in the same group, they may have names that differ only
by certain specified words and expressions (such as "biz", "co",
"co uk", "co.uk", "com", "company", "UK",
"United Kingdom", "Wales", "Cymru", "net",
"GB", "Great Britain", "org.uk", "services",
"international"). This is permitted only if the member of the group whose
name is already on the Registrar's Index of company names gives its consent
to the other company adopting the name that differs from its own in this way. The
application for the proposed name must include:
- a copy of a statement in which the existing company consents to the other company
adopting the proposed name and confirms it will be part of the same group
Can you give some examples of 'same as' names?
If 'Hands Limited' is already registered we would reject the following applications:
- Hand-S Limited or Ltd;
- H and S Public Limited Company (or PLC)
- H & S Services Limited (or Ltd);
- @H & S Limited (or Ltd);
- Hands: Limited (or Ltd);
- # H & S Limited (or Ltd);
Similarly, if 'Catering Limited' is already a registered company we would
reject the following applications unless the application is for a company in the
same group as "Catering Limited" and Catering Limited has given its consent:
- Catering UK Limited (or Ltd);
- Catering.co.uk Limited (or Ltd);
- Catering International Limited (or Ltd)
- Catering Company (Services) Limited (or Ltd);
Which names need approval?
You will need the Secretary of State's prior approval if your chosen name:
- suggests a connection with Her Majesty’s Government or a devolved administration
or a local authority or a specified public authority (see chapter 3 and Appendices
A & B);
- a sensitive word or expression (see chapter 3 and Appendices A & B).
In the case of any name that requires approval because of the connection it suggests
and also in the case of a name that includes certain sensitive words or expressions,
you must request the specified Government department or body to indicate whether
(and if so why) it has any objection to the proposed name. The 'Application
to register a company (Form IN01)' includes a section requiring you to confirm
you have sought the comments of the appropriate body. You must also deliver a copy
of any response received and other supporting information with your application.
Companies House will then consider whether to approve the name on behalf of the
Secretary of State.
What types of words and expressions are sensitive?
The following words imply national or international pre-eminence:
- British: You would need to show that the company is pre-eminent
in its field by providing supporting evidence from an independent source such as
a government department, trade association or other representative body.
The level of pre-eminence in a name that includes 'British' depends on the
impact created by the other words in the name. Usually the sense of pre-eminence
reduces if the overall name does not describe a product, but you would still have
to show that your company is substantial in its field even if this was not described
in the company name.
- National: The criteria for use of this word is the same as for
- England, English, Scotland, Scottish, Wales, Welsh, Ireland or Irish:
: If one of these words appears as the prefix to a name, the requirements are similar
to those for 'British'. If you intend to use, for example, 'of England'
in the name this could also imply pre-eminence in the field.
If you intend to use one of these words in the middle of a name or as the last word
in a name this would normally be acceptable provided you can demonstrate that the
company has its main place of business in the country concerned. If you want to
use one of these words because it is a surname, you will usually be given approval
if the company name includes forenames or initials.
- Great Britain or United Kingdom: If you wish to use these expressions
at the start of a name or if you intend to use 'of Great Britain' or 'of
the United Kingdom' at the end of the name, the requirements are similar to
those for 'British'. Using the initials 'GB' or 'UK' in
your company name does not require approval.
- European: We will not approve names which include this word if
they unjustifiably imply a connection with official bodies of the European Union.
If there is a genuine connection with an official body, we may allow the name if
the appropriate body provides written support for the application.
- International: If you wish to use this word as the first word in
a name, you need to show that the major part of the company's activities is in trading
overseas. If you wish to use it anywhere else in the name we will usually approve
it if you can show that the company operates in two or more overseas countries.
The following words imply business pre-eminence or representative or authoritative
- Association, Federation or Society: If you wish to use one of these
words, your company must normally be limited by guarantee. Each member should have
one vote and the constitution should contain a non-profit distribution clause. This
provides that the company must use any profits to further the objects of the company
and not pay them to the members as dividends.
- Authority, Board or Council: If you want to use any of these words,
you should contact Companies House Cardiff, Edinburgh, or Belfast depending on where
the company is to be incorporated.
- Institute or Institution: We normally only approve these words
for those organisations which are carrying out research at the highest level or
to professional bodies of the highest standing. You will need to show us that there
is a need for the proposed institute and that it has appropriate regulations or
examination standards. You will need evidence of support from other representative
and independent bodies.
- Government: We will only grant approval for the use of this word
in a name if we are satisfied it does not give the impression that the company is
connected with Her Majesty's Government, any part of the Scottish or Welsh administrations,
or any overseas government. We will take the whole company name into consideration
and judge it on its own merits.
- HSC or HPSS: These stand for Health and Social Care and Health and Personal
Social Services. We may consult DHSSPS (Department of Health, Social Services
and Public Safety) when considering the approval of names containing this word as
it could foster a misleading impression among patients, service users and wider
public that the business enjoys an approved status in connection with the Health
and Social Care or Personal Social Services.
The following words imply specific objects or functions:
- Assurance, Assurer, Insurance, Insurer, Re-Assurance, Re-Assurer, Re-insurance
or Re-insurer: If the name is for an underwriting company, we will normally
seek further advice. However, if you want to use the name for a company that will
only provide insurance services, you should include the appropriate qualification,
for example 'agents', 'consultants' or 'services', in the
- Benevolent, Foundation or Fund: We will not approve names that
include any of these words if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company
has charitable status. If the company is limited by guarantee and has a non-profit
distribution clause in the memorandum of association, we will normally approve the
- Charter or Chartered: We will not approve names that include these
words if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company has a Royal Charter.
If you use the words to qualify a profession, we will seek the advice of the appropriate
governing body before considering whether to give approval.
- Charity or Charitable: To use these words the company must provide
a letter of non-objection from the 'Charity Commission' or 'The Office
of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)'. If the company is not intended to
be a charity, you must send a copy of the proposed memorandum and articles of association
along with details of the company activities and an explanation of why the word
is required to the Charity Commission or the OSCR.
- Chemist or Chemistry: If you want to use these words, you should
ask for advice from Companies House in Cardiff , Edinburgh or Belfast as appropriate.
- Co-operative: If you wish to use this word, your company's
Articles of Association should follow the rules generally associated with co-operatives
in the UK. If you need further advice you should contact Companies House in Cardiff,
Edinburgh or Belfast as appropriate.
- Friendly Society or Industrial and Provident Society: We will refer
names which include these expressions to the Registrar of Friendly Societies for
advice. If you need further advice you should contact Companies House in Cardiff,
Edinburgh or Belfast as appropriate.
- Group: : If use of this word implies several companies under one
corporate ownership, you will need to provide evidence of a parent and/or subsidiary
association with two or more other British or overseas companies. If the name clearly
shows that the company is to promote the interests of a group of individuals, then
the name will normally be approved.
- Holding(s): A company wishing to use this word must be a holding
company as defined under section 1159 (2) of the Companies Act 2006.
- Patent or Patentee We will only approve a name including either
word if it does not infringe the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.
- Post Office: These words are registered trade marks of the Royal
Mail group and we will seek advice on applications that include these words.
- Register or Registered We treat every application for use of these
words on its merits. Generally, we will seek advice from the appropriate governing
body if names that include these words relate to a professional qualification. We
will not register the name if it unjustifiably implies a connection with Her Majesty's
Government or a local authority. If there is a connection we will register the name
if the appropriate body supports the application.
- Sheffield: If you wish to use a name that includes the word 'Sheffield',
we will need to establish details of the company's location and its business activities.
We will also consult the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.
- Stock Exchange: We will not approve names including this expression
unless there are special circumstances.
- Trade Union: We will not approve names including this expression
unless they conform to legislation relating to trade unions.
- Trust: The word 'trust' can be used to suit a range of
different situations and the requirements for such trusts are explained below:
- Charitable Trust - these companies need to have charitable objects
and a non-profit distribution clause in the Articles of Association. We will ask
you for confirmation that you have made, or will make, an application for registration
as a charity with the Charity Commission. Scottish companies wishing to use the
expression 'charitable trust' will need to apply to Her Majesty's Revenue
& Customs (HMRC) in Edinburgh as the Charity Commission has no jurisdiction
- Educational trust or Artistic Trust - such companies should have
a non-profit distribution clause in the Articles of Association and the name should
reflect the nature of the trust. The promoters should be of high standing in the
- Enterprise Trust - these companies must have a non-profit distribution
clause in the Articles of Association and they must be able to provide evidence
of support from, for example, local authorities, businesses or banks.
- Family Trust - such companies must be non-profit distributing and
the objects must reflect the nature of the trust. Names of family trusts will usually
be approved if the name as a whole identifies the company as a family trust.
- Financial Trust or Investment Trust - if you wish to use these
expressions, you will need to provide a written assurance that substantial paid-up
share capital or other funds will be achieved within a reasonable period after incorporation.
- Pensions or Staff Trust - the names of such companies must include
the name of the parent company, and the objects of the company must include the
operation of pension funds.
- Unit Trust - if you wish to use this as part of your company name,
you should seek the advice of Companies House in Cardiff or if the company is to
be registered in Scotland, Companies House in Edinburgh.
Objections to company names
Could I have to change my company name after incorporation?
In general, a company can keep its registered name for ever. However a company can
be required to change its name:
- within 12 months of the adoption of the name, if the Secretary of State upholds
an objection that a newly-adopted name is "too like" an already existing
name or if the name was incorrectly registered because it is the 'same as'
an existing company name. Any objection must be made in writing within 12 months
of the date of the registration of the name. If such an objection is upheld, then
the company must change its name as directed and deliver the required documents
within 12 weeks of the date of the direction. Further information on 'too like'
names is provided in question 3;
- within 5 years of the company's adoption of the name, if misleading information
has been given for the purposes of registration by a particular name for example
for the approval of a sensitive name;
- within 5 years of the company's adoption of the name, if an undertaking or assurance
given at the time of registration, for example support for a sensitive name has
not been fulfilled;
- at any time, if the Company Names Adjudicator upholds an objection that the name
is the same as one in which the objector has goodwill or is so similar to such a
name that its use in the UK would be likely to suggest a connection between the
company and the objector. Such an objection will be upheld if the objector shows
that the main purpose in registering the name was to obtain money or other consideration
from him or to prevent his registering the name. (It may also be upheld if none
of certain other matters have happened or apply).
- at any time, if the name gives so misleading an indication of the nature of its
activities that it is likely to cause harm to the public;
- at any time, if a company is no longer entitled to the exemption allowing it to
omit "limited" or any of the permitted alternatives in its name.
What does 'too like' mean?
Any company that registers a name which is very similar ('too like') to
an existing company name could be directed to change its name. When considering
whether one company name is 'too like' an existing company name Companies
House only considers the visible appearance or sound of the two names. We do not
take into account external factors such as geographic location, trading activities,
share ownership or whether a company is dormant. In addition we take no account
of a name or part of a name that is a registered trade mark.
Normally, if the names differ by only a few characters or minor differences they
are likely to be 'too like', for example, H & S Consultants Limited
and H & S Consulting Limited. Most examples of 'too like' names also
suggest a certain level of confusion.
If the names differ by one or more words, especially longer descriptive words they
are unlikely to be 'too like'. For example, an existing company, H &
S Consultants Limited might justifiably complain that the registration of H &
S Consultants (Cardiff) Limited is a cause of confusion. This might be the case
but the names are not 'too like' under the Companies Act and we would be
unlikely to issue a direction in these circumstances.
However, we would issue a direction if the names have substantial or very distinctive
elements in common and differ only by the inclusion of meaning starved words such
as "services" or "trading".
How are 'too like'objections dealt with?
We must receive objections within 12 months of a company's incorporation (or
change of name). If following an objection, we intend to direct a company to change
its name we will write to the company to explain the nature of the objection and
the limited scope for appeal. We will also inform the complainant of the action
taken. If we reject the company's appeal we will issue a direction requiring
it to change its name within 12 weeks and also inform the complainant. If we accept
the company's appeal we will confirm this in writing to all parties.
Can Companies House reject a 'too like' name when a company files its application
to register a company?
No. You can only make objections on grounds of 'too like' after Companies
House has registered the company. We can only reject 'same as' names before
registration. Not all potentially 'too like' names result in an objection.
To avoid the possibility of a 'too like' objection, we advise applicants
to make a search of the Index of Company Names before they apply to form a company
or change the name of an existing company. Having a 'too like' name could
also result in:
- confusion with other companies, which may have a poor filing or trading record;
- a 'passing off' action under civil law; or
- action for trade mark infringement
We do not consult the Trade Marks Register when considering an application for a
company name. Consequently, if there is a trade mark registration which is identical
or similar to the company name you have chosen and you are in the same type of business
you may face legal action for a trade mark infringement. For further advice, including
how to search the trade marks register, contact the UK Intellectual Property at
Objection on grounds of opportunistic registration
Any individual or company can apply to the Company Names Tribunal for a company
to be directed to change its name if they can show that the name was chosen with
the principal intention of seeking money from him or preventing him registering
the name where it is one in which he has previously acquired reputation or goodwill.
The Company Names Tribunal (also known as the 'Company Names Adjudicator')
is responsible for handling complaints about opportunistic registration. Further
information, including application forms and contact information is available on
their website. Please note, Companies House cannot deal with any
complaints about opportunistic registration.