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Protecting Business Name

Protecting Your Business Name

We all have a name and in most cases we’ve had little input in choosing it, as it’s been chosen for us by our parents using a variety of methods. We may have been named after a relative, such as a grandparent or maybe it’s a family tradition (all of the males in my father’s family had the middle name of Frederick) or it could have been because of a royal baby, a film character or perhaps someone famous.

Depending on your surname, the choice of first name can be tricky, entertaining or somewhat embarrassing., Hazel Nutt, Terry Bull and one you’ll hear fans shout at every football ground around the country: Ann Ball. At school, one of my classmates had the first name ‘Horson’ an old Derbyshire name and where his father was born, but you can imagine his nickname as his surname was Carter.

An increasing number of individuals choose not to use their given name and change it by deed poll. Some use a name they prefer or have become known as. Just think of people like Terry Bollette, Frances Gumm, Harry Webb and of course Maurice Micklewhite (I’ll let you look them up).

Often the name is not unique; for example, in the Shrewsbury rugby XV I used to play for, there were four ‘Johns’, three ‘Daves’ and two ‘Williams’. However, when starting a business, you want to make your name stand out in the market place. Having something unique may prove beneficial and protecting that name may also be crucial to the success of the business.

Protecting Business Name: Trademark law

If you’re thinking of creating a limited company simply to protect the name (with no intention to trade), you might want to seek advice from a professional as a trademark may be the better option. To throw another spanner in the works, there are also unregistered trademarks for you to consider.

See: https://www.gov.uk/how-to-register-a-trade-mark/unregistered-trade-marks

There is also a common misconception that you can stop others from using your business name by registering the name at Companies House; sadly, this is wrong. Forming a new limited company will prevent other businesses from registering the same, or a very similar, company name to yours. A trademark however, is a sign which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors, but registering a company name does not automatically protect it by trademark law.

Similarly, if you register a trademark, you may not necessarily be able to register it as a limited company name. They are 2 different forms of protection, administered by 2 different organisations; Companies House registers companies and the Intellectual Property Office registers trademarks.

Protecting Business Name: Trading name

You can also trade using a different name to your registered name. This is known as a ‘business name’ or ‘trading name’. Trading names must not:

  1. Be the same as an existing trade mark
  2. Include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  3. Contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression unless you get permission

And remember, you’ll need to register your name as a trademark if you want to stop people from trading under your business name.

Registering a trade mark

A trademark can be more than just a name. It can be a logo, colour, shape or combination of these. But it cannot describe the goods or services, be misleading or too common and non-distinctive.

Although there’s guidance on how to register a trade mark, the fee cannot be refunded once you’ve applied. So it’s worth considering getting the advice of a trademark attorney before applying.

You can apply for a trademark online and the cost of the application starts at £170 and (if accepted) will last for 10 years and is renewable indefinitely.

We thanks to companies house blog

Image of David Jones Shrewsbury Accountant and Founder of Morgan Jones

If you would like more detailed information on some aspect of UK Tax, send me an e-mail and I’ll be pleased to advise further.