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choosing a name for your business

Choosing a business name can be quite exciting as it is a tangible sign the initial thoughts and ideas are coming together. Take some time on choosing the name; even seek professional help because changing a business name later can be detrimental. There are some guidelines to follow but get creative and make it catchy and pertinent.

Sole Trader
This lets you trade under your name or a business name. If you choose not to use your name then make sure it is on all business correspondence. Bank account go in your name with 'trading as' and the business name following.

Partnership
Use all or some of the partner names, or a separate business name. Whatever the choice, the names of all partners must be listed on correspondence.

Limited Liability Partnership
Can trade under the registered name or an alternative business name. The business name must end with the word 'Limited Liability Partnership' or 'LLP'

Limited Company
Can trade under the registered name, or alternative business name. Only a limited company may use the word 'Limited' or 'LTD' in the business name.

What's In A Business Name?
First impressions are the most important factor to any business and the name is a big part of that. Like a shop window display it can be the first contact potential customers get with the business. Make it snappy and easy to remember. If the name doesn't state what you do consider a catchy byline to go with it.

Points to consider
  • Do you want the name to reflect what your business does? Chris' car cleaning, Rob's room repairs. Perhaps something more abstract suits the personality you are trying to convey. Crystal Clear, for window cleaning for example.
  • If the name is to be descriptive be careful not the limit future diversification. If you want to branch into another area later try and keep the name generalised.
  • If choosing you own name be careful it doesn't match other bigger business names. Popular surnames need to be made very clear you are a different business. So if you name is McDonald, make sure you describe what you do, McDonald's Car Detailing.
  • Make it catchy. Easy to say, spell and remember.
  • Avoid words that become dated, or suffer popularity swings. In the 18th century, The Gay Dressmaker would have conveyed a different message than today.
  • Don't repeat letters or use hyphens. Think about the name being web savvy as well. If your company is The-Purple-Pig whenever people search for it online they will forget the hyphens and type in thepurplepig.com
  • Sounding confident in the name is great but be careful not to get in over your head. Worldwide cleaning company might lead to enquiries you can't fill, and that wastes time as well a the business credibility taking a dive (Unless you can jump on a plane and zip to Australia to do Mrs. Jones' windows).
  • If you are trading overseas, check that the words in the name don't mean anything inappropriate overseas. If an American company called Finest Fanny Packs an Aussie won't be looking in the travel section for them.
Legal Restrictions
The business and trading names must not be:
  • Misleading
  • Offensive
  • Likely to be confused with any existing business
Only Limited companies can use the word limited or the letters LTD. Limited Liability Partnership can only use those words or LLP as part of their business name.

Approval will need to come from the Secretary of State for trade and Industry before you can use the words. Some examples are below:
  • Words implying national or international pre-eminence e.g. British, National or International.
  • Words implying a business pre-eminence, representative or authoritative status e.g. Association, Federation, Society.
  • Words implying specific functions e.g. Insurance, Fund, Trust or Foundation.
  • Words that may convey an expertise you don't possess e.g. Architect, Charity, Dentist, Doctor, Nurse.
A full list is here Companies House

Ensuring the preferred name is available.

Only Limited companies or LLP's need to register a business name, so it can be hard to know you are completely in the clear. Certainly check the name for availability as a domain name. Imagine going through the whole process, loving the new name only to find you can't have it online. 123Reg is a reputable ISP you can check through. Register it as you immediately and for at least 2 years. Even if a website isn't planned it prevents anyone registering the same business domain name. Plus you get to have your email business name, e.g a.smith@looksprofessionalwheelerdealer.co.uk It look professional. Consider registering other variants a well so others can't pass off as you.

Using a name that is similar to an existing business can get you accused you 'passing off', especially if the other is a successful business. if you have to be forced to change the name it can get expensive so a thorough check first can save trouble later.

Check Companies House
Check even if not registering as a limited company. You never know what might happen in the future and it can be a time saver later if you do. Also you'll see if that name of a similar on is registered already.
Companies House

Check patent Office
Even if not in use, it may be registered as a trademark at the patent office. The patent office has a search facility and an advisory service. There is also as free basic search facility online, patent office.

Look In Directories
On line directories are another great source. BT phone book and yell.com allows you to search by business name, business type or a specific area. Check out your local directories offline as well.

Protecting Your Business Name
Use the business name you choose to check if any other business has been set up under your name, or something similar. It can be an honest mistake.

Consider registering a trademark at patent house or by using a good patent and trademark lawyer. Harrison Goddard Foote

If anyone is trading with a name similar to your business contact your solicitor and contact the offending business. Often an honest mistake can be talked out. If not, then get a specialist trademark and patent lawyer. Alternatively, use the services of the national business register.
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