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How to Register a Company Name in the UK

How to Register a Company Name in the UK

Registering a company name is one of the first steps to starting a business in the UK. Here is a simple overview of what you need to do:

  • Check availability using Companies House online
  • Pick something memorable, meaningful and distinct
  • Add the appropriate company suffix
  • Provide accurate details on the application
  • Get your Certificate of Incorporation
  • Disclose the name properly on all materials
  • Renew the registration annually

Your company name needs to be unique and available for use before you can proceed with incorporating your company through Companies House. Read on for a more detailed step-by-step guide on how to register a company name with Companies House in the UK:

1. Check if the Desired Name is Available

The first step is to check if the company name you want is available for registration. There are a few ways to check name availability:

  • Use the Companies House name availability search on the website. Simply enter the desired company name and it will let you know if it is available.
  • Check the Companies House index of company names online. This alphabetical list contains all registered active and dissolved company names.
  • Hire a company formation agent and they can do a name availability search for you.
  • Check if the domain name is available. Even if the company name is available, make sure you can also get the matching .co.uk domain name.
  • Do a web search for the company name to see if any similar names exist. Even if the name is available, it could be confusingly similar to another company’s name.

The company name must be unique and not too similar to an existing name registered at Companies House. You cannot register a name if it is identical or nearly identical to another company name.

Once you have a company name confirmed available, you can proceed with the registration.

2. Choose the Right Company Name

When choosing the perfect company name, there are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Distinctive – It should stand out from the competition and be easy to remember. Avoid generic names.
  • Relevant – The name should relate to your brand identity and business.
  • Simple – Opt for something short, simple and easy to spell. Avoid hyphenated or made-up words.
  • Domain availability – Check that the .com and .co.uk domain names are available.
  • Trademark risk – Research trademarks to avoid potential disputes.
  • Offensive words – Don’t pick anything that could be deemed offensive or profane.
  • Future growth – Pick a name that allows room for expanding into new products or services.

Spend time brainstorming and researching to find the ideal company name. The right name can help establish brand recognition and value.

3. Choose a Company Name Suffix

In the UK, your company name must end with a suffix to identify the type of company structure:

  • Limited – This is the most common suffix for a private company limited by shares. The suffix is Limited, Ltd or plc for a public limited company.
  • Partnership – For a business partnership, the suffix would be Partners or & Partners.
  • Limited Liability Partnership – For a limited liability partnership the suffix is LLP.
  • Public Limited Company – For a public company the suffix is plc.

The most popular options for small businesses are Limited or Ltd. The suffix is a legal requirement and must be included in the registered name and on official documents like letterheads.

4. Choose a Company Registration Service

To officially register the company name, you will need to use a company registration service through Companies House. There are a few options:

  • Use the Companies House website – You can register directly using the online web incorporation service. This is the cheapest option but can be time consuming.
  • Use a formation agent – Formation agents and accountants can handle the registration process for you. This costs more but is quicker and easier.
  • Company formation kits – You can buy DIY company registration kits to mail to Companies House yourself. This is cheaper than using an agent.
  • Company formation companies – There are companies that provide company registration services through an online platform. Fees are usually more than DIY but cheaper than agents.

Consider how much assistance you need when choosing an incorporation service.

  1. Fill in the Company Registration Details

To register the company name, you will need to provide certain details to Companies House as part of the registration application. The main details required are:

  • Proposed company name including suffix (Ltd, etc)
  • Company address
  • Director details – names, address, date of birth, occupation
  • Secretary details if appointing one
  • Shareholder details if a limited company
  • SIC codes for the business activities
  • Memorandum of Association agreeing to form a company
  • Statement of Capital listing share amounts if a limited company
  • Parent company details if part of a group
  • Person of Significant Control details

Make sure all details provided are accurate as Companies House will check them before approving the registration.

6. Pay the Registration Fee

There is a fee to register a company name payable to Companies House. The cost to register online via the website is a £12 fee for same day registration. If submitting by post, it costs £40.

Payment can be made online by debit or credit card or some company formation services may include the registration fee in their package costs if you choose to use those services.

Keep the payment receipt as proof the fee was paid. Companies House will reject the registration if the fee is not paid.

7. Receive a Certificate of Incorporation

If all the details on the registration application check out, Companies House will register the company name and send a Certificate of Incorporation. This will arrive by email or post within 1-5 days.

The Certificate of Incorporation formally confirms the creation of the company under the registered name. This document is important proof of the company’s legal existence and registered details.

You cannot legally start operating the business until the Certificate of Incorporation is received from Companies House.

8. Disclose the Company Name

Once registered, the company name must be disclosed on paperwork and communications:

  • Email signature – Include the full company name and number.
  • Letterheads – Print the registered name and number on official letters.
  • Website – Display the registered name on the company website.
  • Contracts – Use the registered name on any legal contracts or agreements.
  • Invoices – Include the registered company name and number on all invoices.
  • Business cards – Print directors’ business cards showing the company name.

Failure to disclose the registered name on documents is a criminal offence under the Companies Act.

9. Change a Company Name

If you need to change the company name later on, you can submit details of the change to Companies House:

  • Use the same registration process as above but select change of name instead of new registration.
  • Pay a £10 fee to Companies House to officially change the company name.
  • The change will take effect once Companies House updates it in the register and issues a new certificate.
  • Existing contracts in the old name remain legally valid.
  • Update all branding, stationery, communications etc with the new name.
  • Inform suppliers, customers and relevant parties of the official name change.

10. Renew the Company Name Annually

Once registered, a company name must be renewed annually alongside the confirmation statement. There is no separate renewal fee for the name itself. Failure to renew on time means the company will be struck off the register and the name becomes available to register again.

So in summary, registering a company name in the UK requires:

  • Checking name availability and choosing something distinct
  • Selecting the appropriate company suffix
  • Using Companies House online or formation agents
  • Completing all required details on the application
  • Paying the £12-£40 registration fee
  • Receiving a Certificate of Incorporation
  • Disclosing the registered name properly
  • Renewing the name annually

Following these steps will ensure your company name is properly registered with Companies House and protected legally for trading under. Pick a memorable name that matches your brand and make sure it complies with all requirements.

Tips for Choosing a Good Company Name

Tips for Choosing a Good Company Name

Picking the perfect company name is an important part of the registration process. Here are some tips to help choose a name that is meaningful, memorable and available:

  • Brainstorm extensively – Set aside time to brainstorm many name options using business name generators, dictionaries, thesauruses, etc. The more names you come up with, the more choices you’ll have.
  • Research competitors – See what names competitors use and do something different to stand out from them in your industry. Don’t pick something too similar.
  • Mind associations – Be sure the name doesn’t have any unintended negative meanings or associations in other languages or cultures. Google it to see.
  • Test it out – Speak the name aloud, spell it for others, and imagine how it would work in sentences to ensure it sounds good.
  • Focus on easy spelling – Opt for intuitive spelling without odd variations. Hard to spell or pronounce names will cause issues.
  • Keep it simple – Short, snappy and easy to remember names work best. One or two words tops.
  • Evoke meaning – Pick something reflecting your brand identity, values and the nature of the business if possible.
  • Use name generators – Name generator sites like Namelix can provide fresh inspiration and name ideas based on keywords.
  • Check social media – See if you can get matching social media handles like @companyname on the major platforms.
  • Mind extensions – Be sure .com, .co.uk, etc. domains are available too and pick the name accordingly.

Taking the time to find the perfect name pays off in the long run. The right one becomes an invaluable business asset.

Protecting Your Company Name

Once your company name is registered, there are additional steps you can take to legally protect and enforce it:

  • Trademark – Register it as a UK trademark to gain exclusive use rights over the name and logo.
  • Domain name – Register the .com and .co.uk domains so others can’t use them.
  • Social media – Claim matching social media handles on all major platforms you intend to use.
  • Enforce rights – Take legal action against trademark infringement and passing off if others misuse your name.
  • Renew promptly – Renew and maintain the company registration, trademark and domains annually.
  • House style – Create brand guidelines on proper use of the company name, font, colors etc.

Having a unique registered company name is the first layer of protection. Further steps like trademarking and domains will strengthen your ability to prevent misuse and enforce your legal rights if needed.

When Company Name Changes Become Necessary

While name changes can be a headache, sometimes they become necessary for legal and practical reasons:

  • Trademark conflicts – To resolve potential trademark disputes or confusion with another name.
  • Rebranding – To match a new brand identity or desired public image.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions – To unify branding after mergers, acquisitions or structural changes.
  • Going global – To adapt the name to work better in additional countries and languages.
  • Negativity – To disassociate from any negative publicity or events damaging the current name.
  • Legal issues – To resolve legal disputes over the existing name.
  • Buyouts – To align with the owner’s name after a buyout or ownership changeover.
  • Growth – To support a rapidly scaling company expanding into new areas.

While inconvenient, a thoughtful name change for the right reasons can pay dividends in protecting the company’s reputation and future interests as it evolves.

FAQs on Registering a UK Company Name

How much does it cost to register a company name?

It costs £12 to register a new company name online via Companies House and £10 for a name change application. Postal applications are £40 for same day registration. .

Do I have to register my business name?

If you are incorporating as a limited company, plc or LLP, registration of the company name is mandatory. Sole traders can choose to register a business name but don’t have to.

How long does it take to get a certificate of incorporation?

The certificate of incorporation will be issued and sent within 24 hours if registering online. For postal applications it takes 1-5 days.

What name can I use without registering?

Sole traders and partnerships can trade under a business name without registering it as long as it complies with Trading Standards. But registration provides legal protection.

Can I buy an already registered company name?

Yes, you can buy a dormant company and then change its name to one you want, provided it is available. There is no guarantee a name can be acquired from another company though.

Registering a unique company name and adhering to the rules is important to legally and properly form a company. Following the steps outlined will help entrepreneurs register a new company name or change an existing one through the right channels. With the name secured, focus can then move onto other aspects of starting up and running the UK company.

Key Takeaways

Registering a company name in the UK is straightforward when you follow the proper steps:

  • Check availability using Companies House online
  • Pick something memorable, meaningful and distinct
  • Add the appropriate company suffix
  • Provide accurate details on the application
  • Get your Certificate of Incorporation
  • Disclose the name properly on all materials
  • Renew the registration annually

Take the time upfront to find a quality name and safely secure exclusive rights to use it through registration and trademarking. This creates a solid foundation to build your company’s identity on in the UK.

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