Choosing your business name can be one of the most important decisions that you'll ever have to make. And yet picking a name for your business is certainly not as easy as some may think. The attached article shows the value of making sure that you get it right including what can happen if you get it wrong.

Cutting straight to the important stuff – here are a few rules to keep in mind:

1. You’re not allowed to use the same or similar business name as an existing business

2. Registering your company name with Companies House does not stop others from using it and it doesn’t protect it, but what it does do is to prevent others from registering the same name

3. Registering your distinctive business name as a trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office, will give you exclusive rights to the name in the UK. (Typically, this will cost in the region of £170 to apply online)

4. If your business name is not registered as a trade mark, you can still protect the name in legal proceedings if:

  • you can prove it’s yours;
  • you can demonstrate that you’ve been using the name longer than someone else;
  • you can give evidence that someone’s else’s use of the same or a similar name is causing confusion for members of the public and;
  • you can prove that you’ve suffered a loss as a result of someone else using the same or similar name as your business name (for example where your customers have paid someone else for a product thinking they are ordering from you).

The UK does not have an official business name register, but there are a few easy steps that you can take to minimise the risk of using someone else’s business name:

  • do a general internet search and a Companies House search to check if anybody else is using your planned business name;
  • search the available website addresses for your chosen name and register the domain name if it’s available. You can check whether your chosen website name is available by searching for free on the main domain name sites, such as http://www.nominet.uk/ for .co.uk sites and https://www.whois.net/ for others. If all the main domain suffixes (e.g. .com, .co.uk) are not available, that’s a good sign that someone else is using or planning to use your chosen name already and you may anticipate trouble ahead if you decide to use it without further investigation;
  • check the Trade Mark Register at the Intellectual Property Office (it’s free) to make sure no application has been filed under that name. You can get to the register here.

Once you’ve settled on your name, checked it’s free and you’ve found that the website domain name is available too, make them yours by applying to trade mark the name and purchasing the domain name. Domain names are relatively cheap to buy. It’s good practice to buy all the main suffixes, not just one. This will prevent free-riders or inadvertent copy-cats acquiring a version of your web-site name and setting up in competition to you later down the line.

If you’ve designed a logo to accompany your company name you might want to trademark that too so that it’s also publicly declared to be yours. There are a lot of providers of trade mark registration services these days, including on-line ones, and they are often very cost-effective and reliable. If you’d like assistance in pursuing a trade mark registration or you’re not sure which service might be reliable or right for you, we can help you to get this underway. You can contact us by clicking here.