How to choose (and protect) your company name

Company names are legally required when forming a company. That can be: a private limited company (Ltd), a limited liability partnership (LLP), a limited partnership (LP) or an ‘ordinary’ business partnership.

Assuming that you’ve carefully crafted your product or service, following what may have been months of market research to ensure there’s a need or want for your offering, you must now choose a company name that defines your offering in an instant.

This task may sound easy, however summarising your product or service within just a few words can quickly become a frustratingly challenging task. Here are our top tips for ensuring a smooth process:

Be aware of business names you can’t use

There are a few rules when it comes to choosing a company name:

– You must not suggest a connection with government or local authorities;

– You must not use an offensive word or term;

– You must seek special permission if you wish to use a sensitive word (which may represent a regulated activity, where the word may cause offence or where it suggests a pre-eminence, such as ‘British’, ‘Institute’ or ‘Tribunal)’;

– Ensure that your name isn’t already registered by another company, or is too similar to a name already in existence.

Be inspired and inspiring

Look at how similar companies have defined their offering in an instant; undertake market research as to the words that may come to mind when speaking of a company such as yours; consider the values of your company, your USP and the nuances that define your target market’s vocabulary.

If you become stuck in a rut with this then take a little time out. Some of the best brand names in the world have been conjured up whilst away from a computer, which includes Sarah Blakely’s inspiration for ‘Spanx’, which popped into her head whilst stuck in a traffic jam. Here are a few other creative ways of coming up with a name: 

Mash-ups and made-up word. In the internet age having a unique word makes you not only memorable but also gives you the rights to that word for your website URL and social media. Examples include Stemettes and Flickr.

Mythology. Myths and legends provide a massive amount of inspiration and are rooted deeply in our collective psyche. Examples of business names drawn from mythology include: Oracle, Hermes and Argos.

Location. It’s common for businesses to be named after their address or location. Professional and healthcare services are a case in point, as well as restaurants and cafes.  Then there are brands like Cisco (short for San Francisco) and Patagonia.

Values. What’s important to your business? It could just provide you with a name that instantly communicates what you are about. Examples include: Notonthehighstreet and Thrive.

Your name. Using your own name can make things easy. It can also be a show of pride and suggest a promise of quality. Why else would you put your name to it! Even better if your name is unusual. This is common in professional and personal services, fashion and family businesses. Examples include: Laura Ashley, Ben & Jerry’s and Lloyd’s Bank.

Metaphor. A metaphor can be one of the most powerful ways of naming and branding your company. It instantly conjures up a simple, strong and memorable image in the customer’s mind. Starling Bank, the new internet challenger, chose their name, because: “The Starling bird is sociable, adaptable, friendly and supportive – all qualities we wanted from our new bank. It also works as part of a team to make something as complex as a murmuration feel beautifully simple. Plus, it’s a rather successful bird, which arrives in huge numbers in each new territory and displaces the old guard.” It’s a great metaphor.

If you can’t be inspired, then be resourceful

If you’re truly stuck for ideas to define your company’s offering in an instant, then you may want to consider using the professional services of a copywriter that specialises in brand-name copy. Such services can be sought relatively cheaply through freelancing websites and may well provide you with a sharper, more concise and more relevant a brand name than if you were to create it yourself.

Protect your brand name brain wave: Registering your name

Registering your company does not provide you with trademark protection of your brand name (although it does stop others from using your exact business name). In order to fully protect your business you need to first ensure that the name you’ve chosen isn’t already trademarked, and thereafter register for trademark protection (this can cost upwards of £170).

It’s important to note that you don’t need to use the name you register at Companies House as your trading brand. You can also use different trading names for different elements of your business. You can apply for a trademark or intellectual property protection for business names that are separate from your company name.

Register your new business

Once you’re armed with all of the above information then it’s time to take the plunge and register your company. This is both exciting as well as super-easy and can be completed within a few minutes – with all applications usually processed and ready to go within 24 hours. You can also register by post, through an ‘agent’ or by using a range of third-party software, however registering directly online is the quickest, most straightforward option.

Before you register: A few more things to arrange

Once you’ve chosen your company name you may have a little further work to do before you can go ahead and register your company; alongside your company name you’ll additionally need the following further pieces of information.

– A company address;

– One or more directors;

– One or more shareholders;

– Agreement between all shareholders to create the company (this is known as a ‘memorandum of association’);

– Information about your company’s shares and their rights (this is known as a ‘statement of capital’);

– A document that outlays rules about how the company is run (this is known as ‘articles of association’).

The fee for registering online at Companies House is just £12, although for those registering by post this rises to £40. This latter option will also take the registration period up to between 8 and 10 days.

Hopefully, your company name will be part of your life for a long time to come. It will be a name that you see and talk about every day. So take your time, think carefully, test it with potential customers and choose wisely. And then, when it is official and registered don’t forget to celebrate the launch. It’s not every day that a new business is born.