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Chloe Fernandez
Chloe Fernandez,
PARALEGAL
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UK company name changes - is defensive action required?
19 May 2015

Two new sets of regulations governing UK company names and trading disclosures came into force on 31 January 2015 as part of the Government’s “Red Tape Challenge”. These carry with them pros and cons for company owners and action may be necessary for some.

Sensitive Words

Previously, many ‘sensitive words’ could not be included in a company name without obtaining approval from the relevant government department. The updated regulations have removed a number of these words, including National, United Kingdom, European, Group and Holding(s), meaning that registration of certain company names will now be significantly less onerous, as approval for the use of those words within a company name will no longer be necessary.

“Same as” Rules

Broadly speaking, a company name cannot be registered which is identical to or the “same as” an existing company. Under the previous regulations, if there was a company called “ABC Limited”, you could not register “ABC Group Limited” because “Group” fell into a list of words which were disregarded when determining if company names were different. From 31 January, the list of words that were previously disregarded has been reduced, with Group, Holdings, Services, International, Exports and Imports, amongst others, removed from the list.

The removal of certain words from the list of “same as” words makes it more likely that an unscrupulous third party could register a name that is similar to that of an existing company. For example, if you own a company called ABC Services Limited and a third party applies to register ABC Services Group Limited, the registration could proceed without objection and whilst previously, an email to Companies House outlining your objection might have been sufficient to have the registration removed, this will no longer be the case.

On the other hand, a positive outcome of the regulations is that “& Co”, “and Co”, “& Company” and “and Company” have been added to the list of “same as” words and expressions, meaning that it will no longer be possible to register “ABC & Company Limited” if “ABC Limited” already exists.

Consequences

The changes will cut the red tape and make it easier to register certain company names. However, the downside is that unscrupulous third parties may use the changes as an opportunity to register a name that is similar to an existing name.

Should I take any action?

Watching services are an important tool in the proactive monitoring of your brands. Such services can monitor new company names, domain registrations and trade marks, amongst other things, and Boyes Turner would be happy to advise you. 

For more information about the issues in this article or to find out more about how the Commercial & Technology team can help you please contact Chloe Fernandez on 0118 952 7247 or email [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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