Naming your business and protecting it

Starting up

15 September 2022

How to come up with a good name for a business 

What’s in a name? When you’re setting out in business, you’ll need to come up with a catchy moniker. But it’s important to check that you’re not using a business name that’s already been taken – and then protect your name once you’ve chosen it.

This guide will walk you through choosing a name, making sure it’s unique and then protecting it.

Choosing a business name

This is an incredibly important part of starting your business. It helps form the first impression that people will have of your business and will stick with you for a long time. While you can always change your business name, re-branding can be difficult once you’re well established, so having a good name from the start helps you build brand awareness and keep it.

Not sure where to start?

If you’re struggling to come up with a name for your business, try writing down everything that comes to mind – don’t rule anything out at the start. Think about words associated with your own name, the location of your business, the types of services you offer, or the feeling you want customers to walk away with.

Once you have a bunch of words or ideas written down, try combining them in different ways to see if there’s something that feels right. 

Here’s a few things to consider when coming up with your business name:

Make it memorable

The most important thing is that you choose something memorable and easy to spell. For example, when Coldplay released their album Mylo Xyloto they later came to regret the name as no one could pronounce it and using unfamiliar words made it hard for people to remember.

Your big challenge will be finding something that is simple enough to be memorable while still being unique enough to stand out. Striking that balance is difficult but essential when naming your business.

Give it some personality

This may not work for all businesses, depending on your industry. If you work in accounting or various types of consultancy, a more serious name might be appreciated. But if you’re consumer-facing such as hairdressers or retailers, you might be able to have a little fun with your business name.

This helps with it being memorable, but it also makes your business seem more approachable.

Test it

Get some feedback from people who think and act like your ideal customer. Ask them questions such as: Is the name easy to understand and share? Does it resonate with you? What does it make you think of?

Checking your name is available

Once you have a name in mind, don’t fall in love just yet. There’s a number of official and unofficial checks you should go through to make sure that this name is available for you to use and unique enough to not be confused with others.

Here’s a list of steps you can take to check if your business name is available:

  1. Use the Companies House company name availability checker so you can make sure no other business already uses the name you came up with
  2. Conduct a UK Trademark Search to see if someone already has a legal right to use and protect that name
  3. If you have dreams of expanding beyond the UK, you may also want to check the EU trade marks register on the European Union Intellectual Property Office website. Any applications that are already pending will have priority over yours even if they haven’t yet been approved.
  4. Google it. While this may seem simple, it will help you understand if anyone is using the name already in an unofficial capacity
  5. Check that the social media handles you would want to use are available. If you cannot get anything close to your desired business name, you could have an issue.
  6.  Check that the domain name you would want to use is available. You may want to check it in several versions including ‘.com’ and ‘’

Registering your name with Companies House

If you’ve taken all the steps above and your business name is available, one of the first steps to protecting you name is to get it registered with the Companies House. This is a step you’ll need to take anyway when setting up a limited company or to get a business bank account in your business’ name, so it’s useful for a number of reasons.

However, they have naming guidelines you must meet as well:

  • You have to include ‘Limited’ in your business name
  • Your proposed name cannot contain offensive language. Names which hint at offensive language might also be rejected. ‘Offensive’ is broadly defined with the BBC reporting Pandemic19 Ltd among rejected names in 2021.
  • You must get permission to use sensitive words that imply a connection with government or local authority or represent a regulated authority. This can include words such as British, benevolent and commission.
  • You cannot have the same name as another company or even one that is too like an existing name. Companies House will make the decision on whether a proposed name is too close to another registered name.
How to register a business name with Companies House?

Once you are sure you can meet the criteria, registering is easy and can be done online for just £12. The registration is usually valid in about 24 hours.

After a successful registration, you’ll get a ‘certificate of incorporation’. This confirms the company legally exists and shows the company number and date of formation. 

Trademarking your name 

After going through all that effort to research and register your name, trademarking it is another way to protect the business name. While registering the name with Companies House is a legal requirement, trademarking is not, and the processes are entirely separate.

You may be able to trademark several different aspects of your branding including your business name, logo, and font. Once your trademarked elements are registered, you have the rights to take legal action against people who use your brand without permission. You’ll also be able to use the ® symbol next to your brand where appropriate.

According to the UK Government website, the registration process typically takes about 4 months as long as no one challenges it.

Trademark guidelines 

It’s important to understand that not all names can be trademarked though. If your name quite literally describes your product or service, it’s unlikely to be eligible for a trademark. For example, if you’re a car mechanic and named your business “The Car Mechanics” you may not be able to trademark as it’s not unique enough.

There are other restrictions as well such as not being misleading (using the word vegan when you sell products that are not vegan), not being offensive and not being too similar to state symbols such as flags.

Classes of trademark 

There are 45 different trademark classes covering a variety of goods and services. Everything, from machinery to art materials and vet services to legal services, has its own classification. When you go to register your trademark, it is important that you choose the most relevant class for your business.

You can only enforce trademark issues in the same class as the one you registered in. So, if your business branding is only trademarked in the machinery classification and another business uses the name but in the hotel services, you may not be able to enforce it. You are, however, allowed to register for more than one trademark class to avoid this.

If you’re not sure what trademark class your business falls under, you can try the TMclass classification search tool

Costs of trademarking 

In the UK, your standard online trademark application costs between £170 for one class and a further £50 for each additional class you’d like to be registered under.

You can also use the ‘Right Start’ service if you want to check your application meets the rules for registration. With this programme, you pay £100 initially plus £25 for each additional class. The UKIPO then checks that your application meets the criteria for registration. If it does and you proceed with the application, you’ll pay a further £100 to complete the application and a further £25 per additional class you registered for.

If you prefer to apply by post, it costs £200 for one class plus £50 for each additional class.

How long does a trademark last? 

Once you register a trademark, it is valid for up to 10 years. You can renew it every 10 years in order to keep that trademark permanently. However, your trademark rights can be revoked if you’re not using it continuously, so it’s helpful to have some evidence proving genuine and lasting use.

If you change anything about the trademark in that 10-year period, you’ll have to make a new application as the old trademark won’t cover the new alterations.

Register your trademark overseas 

Registering a trademark in the UK only protects your brand in the UK and the Isle of Man. 

There are different processes for: 

Protecting your business name 

Registering with Companies House and registering a trademark are two of the main ways to protect your brand name and ensure it is only used by your business. There are a few smaller actions you can take as well to protect your business’ name and reputation:

  • Set up automatic renewal for any website domains related to your business so that you don’t accidentally lose ownership when the certificate expires.
  • Similarly, you may want to get the domains for alternative spellings of your business name. For example, buying the domains for both and can make sure your customers end up at the right website no matter how they spell it.
  • Register for the alternate extensions of your website domain name – securing the .com, .org, means that even if someone gets your website address wrong, they can be redirected to you rather than ending up on a different site.
  • Set up Google Alerts on your business name so that you’re notified of any news surrounding your business and might catch any unauthorized use of your name early on.
What do I do if someone is using my trademark?

Unauthorised use of your trademarked branding should be dealt with immediately so that other don’t tarnish your business reputation. Often this is a simple as getting a solicitor to send a cease and desist letter however if action needs to go further, it is usually handled under civil lawsuits.

How else can I protect my business?

A trademark only protects your name. But what about the rest of your business?

With insurance from AXA, you can tailor make your cover to ensure that you’re protected in the event of claims for financial loss caused by a breach of professional duty, accidents and injuries related to your business. We can also offer protection for your business contents and legal expenses.

If you’re unsure of what type of cover you need, our Business Insurance Wizard can help point you in the right direction.

All links are checked and valid at time of publishing, 15 September 2022.


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