Choosing a Business Name

There are many issues that affect choosing a business name, and this article will look at some of them.

What is a business name?

Where any person, partnership or company uses a name for carrying on business, then that name can be legally defined as a ‘business name’. However, an individual using his or her own name for a business will not fall within the legal ambit of being a business name.

Choosing the right name for your business

It is advisable that you seek independent legal advice before deciding on a specific business name. You should also carry out some research before choosing the final name. A simple ‘Google’ search is always a good start for this. Then consider looking at specialist areas, such as phone books, business directories, trade journals and magazines to check if any business is already using the same (or similar) name in the specific field your business operates in.

Using the same name?

Using an identical or similar name to another business, could result in infringing the intellectual property rights of the other business. For example, some businesses register their business name as a trademark.

The Law relating to business names

Business names are covered by the Business Names Act 1985 (the “Act”), in England and Wales. This Act contains all the requirements in relation to choosing and registering a business name.Â

The Act applies to the following entities:

 a) A company trading under a name which is not its corporate name, for example if a company called ABC Limited trades as DEF Food Supplies.

 b) A partnership that is not trading under the names of all of the partners

 c) An individual trading under a name that is not exclusively his or her surname. For example, where Philip Williams trades under the name of P Williams & Company, then the Act will apply.

Prohibited Names

The Act prohibits certain names and a copy of the list can be obtained from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or Companies House. Names which suggest to the public that they are connected with royalty or the Government are prohibited, unless they have specific endorsement allowing them to use the name.

Although the Act does not mention internet domain names (the legislation predates the use of domain names), it is widely accepted that as a domain name is a trade name then the act will apply.

It is always advisable that you consult a solicitor or other legal advice provider, to ensure that you follow all the rules that apply under the Business Names Act 1985 when choosing a business name.

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