Are you Being Sensitive with Your Company Name?

In an ideal world you could choose any ‘available company name’ that you like and register it. Unfortunately there are certain words and phrases that have been listed by Companies House as ‘sensitive’. These words are protected as they have the potential to mislead, confuse and in some cases even offend the general public.

Many words, when used within a company name, are restricted by Companies House. Whilst you may argue this is more government red-tape, there are some reasonable arguments behind this protection. Your proposed company name may suggest a government function, connection to a recognised body, an affiliation or even business pre-eminence.

In some cases where a company does have an affiliation or relevant standing evidence will need to be produced to prove this prior to the name being accepted. Approval must be sought from the relevant organisation and thereafter presented to Companies House, via your company formation agent. Companies House do not accept online applications for company names with sensitive words.

You can access the full list of sensitive words and expression online as well as the details of the departments and bodies to whom you will need to apply for approval.

Some of the most popular sensitive words include:

  • Association
  • England/English/Scottish/British
  • Foundation/Fund/Society/Trust
  • Dentist/Architect/Nurse
  • Government/Parliament
  • King/Queen/Prince and any other word that suggest a connection to the Crown

However, some words have recently been made more available. On 31st January 2015, there were a number of changes to the legislation concerning company and business names in the UK. Fewer words are now disregarded for the purpose of distinguishing between registered company names. Furthermore, a number of common words and expressions are no longer considered ‘sensitive’, most notably:

  • Group
  • Holding
  • United Kingdom
  • European
  • International
  • Register, registered, registration, registry

If you need to register a company name that includes a sensitive word of phrase it is recommended that you contact a company formation specialist. Not all agents offer this service so you need to find one that offers a company name checking service. Using a site like Simple Formations you can upload and send supporting documentation to Companies House online with your application. You cannot use Companies House Web Incorporation Service to register a company name with sensitive words.

Using an agent also gives you the opportunity to discuss the requirements and expectations prior to starting the process. Although there are many words that are acceptable and less now that are restricted, getting it right the first time and having all of the correct permissions in place before commencing can make everything a lot simpler and less time consuming for you.