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Flexibility in company names

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There are two new sets of regulations being brought in with effect from the end of January 2015 which will have the effect of easing the restrictions in choosing a new company name and changing an...

There are two new sets of regulations being brought in with effect from the end of January 2015 which will have the effect of easing the restrictions in choosing a new company name and changing an existing company name.

Permitted characters

The new regulations provide for a greater range of characters and symbols which are permitted to be used in a company name.  For a full list of these characters, please see regulation 7 and schedule 3 of The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015.

Words which are considered the "same as"

The current regulations provide that a proposed company name cannot be registered if it is considered to be the "same as" an existing company name.  This applies not only when trying to register a new company name which is exactly the same as an existing company name, but also where the only difference between an existing name and a proposed name is the substitution of one of the following words or characters with the other:

  • "and"  and    "&"
  • "plus" and     "+"
  • numbers written as  numerals or words
  • "£"      and   "pound"
  • "€"      and    "euro"
  • "$"      and    "dollar"
  • "¥"      and    "yen"
  • "%"     and   "percent"
  • "@"     and    "at"

For example, under the current regulations, the name "Peter and Peter Ltd" would be considered the same as "Peter & Peter Ltd".

The following words, when preceded by a blank space, full stop or @, must also be ignored when ascertaining whether two company names are considered to be the "same as" each other: biz, co, co.uk, com, EU, exports, GB, Great Britain, group, holdings, imports, net, NI, Northern Ireland, org, org uk, org.uk, services, UK, United Kingdom, Wales and several Welsh words.  For example, "Peter UK Ltd" would be considered the same as "Peter.com Ltd".

The following words have been deleted from this list of words which must be ignored: "Export", "Group", "Holdings", "Imports", "International" and "Services". For example, "Peter Export Ltd" will no longer be considered the same as "Peter Imports Ltd".

"Sensitive" words

The current regulations provide a list of words which are classed as "sensitive" and therefore cannot be included in a company name unless relevant consents are obtained (e.g. consent from the Financial Conduct Authority would be required if a company proposed to use the term "Bank" in its name).  This list includes words such as "chartered" and "charitable".

The new regulations once again limit this list and delete twenty-six words from it including, "European" and "National".  For full details of the revised list of sensitive words, please see schedules one and two of The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014.

Trading disclosures

The new regulations make a small amendment to the requirement for a company to display its name at its registered office.  Where more than five companies are operating from the same registered office, those companies are no longer required to display their details at such office, but must instead make them available for inspection on request.

Carlton Durrant is a Partner and Mekalai Thambiah is a Solicitor in Fieldfisher's Corporate Group in London.

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