Business Names

1. What is a Business Name?

A “business name” is any name under which someone carries on business other than their own. In the case of a company or limited liability partnership, it means a name that is not its registered name.

In the case of a sole trader, it means a name other than a surname with or without forenames or initials. In the case of a partnership, it means a name other than the partners’ names.

2. Which provisions of the Companies Act 2006 apply to my business name?

Business names are not registered under the Companies Act but some of the rules included in the Act do apply, principally:

  • restrictions on the use of certain words in the name and names that could imply a connection with a government department or public body
  • Inappropriate and misleading use of a name ending, e.g. “limited” at the end of the name and trading there are rules to prevent the use of names that could mislead the public .
  • rules requiring the names of sole traders and partnerships using a business name to be displayed on stationery and signs at business premises.

3. How do I obtain approval to use a sensitive word in my business name?

If your business name includes any of the words and expressions included in Annexes A-C, where appropriate, you must obtain the written views of a relevant body and send it to Companies House with your letter seeking permission to use the name.

If you use such a name without prior approval, you will be committing an offence and may be subject to a fine.

You should also ensure your business name does not infringe an existing trade mark.

4. Do I need to display my business name?

No. However, if you are a sole trader or partnership that uses a different trading name you must display your own name (sole trader) or all the partners’ names (partnership) in a prominent position at all your business premises.

5. What must I include in business stationery?

If you use a business name, you must include your own or the partners’ names in legible characters on:

  • business letters;
  • written orders for goods or services to be supplied to the business;
  • business emails;
  • invoices and receipts issued in the course of the business;
  • written demands for payment of debts arising in the course of the business.

You must also include an address in the UK to enable business documents to be served on the sole trader or any partner shown on business stationery.

This article is subject to Crown Copyright

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