Can I choose any name I want for my company name?

Mar 29, 2012

It is not possible to choose any name you want for your company, there are a number of restrictions and controls on your choice of company name.

The ending of your company name is prescribed by law: if your company is a private company limited by shares or guarantee its name must end with "limited" or "Ltd" and if your company is a public company its name must end with 'public limited company' or 'p.l.c.'.

If you incorporate your company with a registered office  situated in Wales (a "Welsh"company), its name may instead end with "cyfyngedig" or "cyf" if a private company or 'Cwmni Cyfyngedig Cyhoeddus' or 'CCC' if a public company.

There are other forms of words which can be used to describe particular forms of company including Community Interest Company" and "Right to Manage" or "RTM".

There are also rules that prevent the registration of a company name that is the 'same as' an existing name on the Companies House register and there are controls over the use of certain characters, signs, symbols and punctuation in a company name. This means that if two company names are so similar they are likely to confuse the public as to which company is which, then they are the 'same as'.

To determine whether a name is the 'same as' an existing name is quite complicated because there are some words and expressions that must be disregarded in the comparison, these include the words  "limited", "unlimited", "public limited company", "biz", "co", "co.uk", "com", "company", "UK", "United Kingdom", "Wales", "Cymru", "net", "org.uk", "services", "international", "the" and "www" at the beginning of a name and, surprisingly, any characters after the first 60 characters in a name.

Companies House also disregard a blank spaces between or after a word, expression, character, sign or symbol; punctuation including a full stop, comma, colon, bracket, apostrophe; characters "*", "=", "#", "%" and "+" when used as one of the first three characters in a name; and "s" at the end of a name (irrespective of whether it is a plural).

Additionally, when comparing one name with another certain words and expressions will be regarded as the 'same as', for example, "and" and "&", "plus" and "+", "1" and "one", "6" and "six", "€" and "euro", "$" and "dollar", "%" and "percent", "@" and "at".

Companies House have helpfully provided some of examples of 'same as' names:

'Hands Limited' is the 'same as':

  • Hand-S Limited
  • H and S Public Limited Company
  • Hands: Ltd

'Catering Limited' is the 'same as'

  • Catering UK Limited
  • Catering.co.uk PLC
  • Catering International Ltd
  • Catering Company Services Public Limited Company

There are some exceptions to the 'same as' rule. It will not be applied in  circumstances where the  proposed company will be part of the same group as an existing company; and the existing company consents to the registration of the proposed name; and the application to register includes a letter/statement from the existing company which confirms its consent to the incorporation of the new company name and that it will form part of the same group.

As this is a complicated area we would always suggest that you enter your proposed company name into the name check facility on our website which is linked into the Companies House database of names to ensure that the name you want is available.

You should be careful not to order any stationery, business cards or other accessories with your company name until you are sure that your name is approved at Companies House and, preferably not until you have your new company Certificate of Incorporation.