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What are company names, trading names and trademarks – and how do they differ? It’s important to understand the difference if you’re setting up your first company. Uncover everything you need to know about choosing company names and trading names in the UK below. And speak to Yorkshire Accountancy for tailormade support.

What is a company name?

When you set up a company in the UK, the company must be registered at Companies House, which is the registrar of all companies operating from the UK. As part of this process, the company must choose and register its company name. You can only choose one company name for your business.

There are some restrictions when choosing a company name. It should not give an impression that the company is connected to public authorities or government departments. It cannot include offensive language or certain symbols, and it cannot be too similar to existing company names. The name you choose for your company can be rejected if it doesn’t conform to the strict rules.

It is a legal requirement that your registered company name appears on certain documentation and business materials. For example, all invoices, licenses and even your website must display the company name appropriately.

Can I trade under a different name than what is registered at Companies House?

Your company is allowed to trade under a different name than what is registered on Companies house. These are called trading names – and we discuss them in detail below. Just remember that you’ll still need to use your registered company name on certain documentation, such as invoices.

What is a trading name?

A company trading name is a name that the business uses but is not the same as its registered name. They are often used to differentiate between different parts of a business for marketing purposes. For example, a supermarket may have a trading name for their grocery section but then use a slightly different name for a café that is attached to their supermarket.

Companies are allowed to select and use as many trading names as they wish, but they must not be the same as their registered company name.

Do I need to register a trading name?

Trading names do not need to be registered with Companies House or an equivalent registrar. But they are still subject to many of the same restrictions as company names, as mentioned above.

One big difference is that there are no rules to say that trading names cannot be similar to existing trading names. However, copying another trade name could result in the original company lodging a trademark infringement or misrepresentation claim, so it is best avoided.

Company names vs trademarks

A company name registered at Companies House is not the same as having a registered trademark. Getting a trademark prevents other businesses or people from using your name or from using a name that is confusingly similar.

As per UK law, trademark infringement occurs when a company uses the same or a highly identical name as either their company name or as a trading name. It’s even possible to object to a company name with a similar name as your trademark if the company was incorporated prior to the trademark being active. In a nutshell, trademarks trump everything else from a legal perspective.

This is why it’s worth considering registering a trademark after you have chosen a company name or come up with a new trading name. This can be done through UKIPO.

Need help setting up a company?

Setting up a company can be daunting, confusing and time-consuming. Yorkshire Accountancy can help you set up a new company, including registering your company name. Let our experienced accountants set your company up for you, so you can concentrate on those early business decisions. Book a call with our friendly team to discuss this service in detail.