A company name must not be similar to one which currently exists of one which is on the proposed register.
These provisions exist to prevent "passing off" which is where one company has a name so similar to that of another, that persons might think that they are the same.
They then may mistaken interact with one believing that it is in fact the other.
Using Spaces in a Company Name
A common misconception relating to this area is that spaces between words are sufficient to distinguish one name from another and thereby allow the company to be formed successfully.
For example, "Abigboat Limited" would not be registered if "A Big Boat Limited" was already held on the Companies House register.
Adding the word "The" to the beginning or end of a name is also unlikely to be sufficient to differentiate a new company from one which already exists. Adding the word "London" or some other geographical distinction is usually acceptable however.
Changing the case of a company name from upper to lowercase or visa versa does not distinguish one from the other.
The rules regarding similar names is by no means clear cut and in situations where the selection could be seen to be too similar to that of another, the person forming a company should contact Companies House directly for an informed opinion.
Objections to a Similar Company Name
Even with the approval of Companies House, there still exists a provision whereby if a person believes that the name of a newly incorporated entity is similar to their own, they can apply for it to be changed.
Existing companies has twelve months in which they can make such an application.
Similar Trading Names
An important to note that the name which a company is registered under does not preclude it from trading under a different title.
For example, “ABC limited” can trade as “XYZ provided the latter is not restricted in anyway by trademark or supervisory body.
Trading names are not directly supervised by Companies House or by any other regulatory body except in case where it is trademarked or deeded to be sensitive.
The status of a trading name is similar to that of a sole trader or partnership and is largely unregulated.
Companies Act 2006 - Similar Names
The Companies Act Changes introduced on 1 October 2009 have significantly extended the scope and range of words which Companies House deed to be similar.
Since its inception words such as UK, GB, a list of common domain name extensions such as “.co.uk”, “.com”, “.net” and so on are now classes in a similar fashion to the words “company” or “the” under the Companies Act 1985.
Any company which is distinguished from an existing name only by these words or characters will be judged to the same and any registration application submitted will be rejected on that basis.
As part of the extension to the similar names rules longer words such as “services” and “international” are also now classed as null words in that their presence within a proposed company name will be insufficient to support the required claim that it is significantly different from one which is currently on the register.
Exceptions to the Similar Names Rules
The Companies Act 2006 provisions lay down a commonsense and useful exception to the normal similar name rules highlighted above.
Where the current entity which holds the name which is similar to the proposed one provided their consent ton the registration application the normal rules will not be applied.
In practical circumstances the owner of an existing registered name might wish to incorporate additional companies which contain a variation to the one which is already set-up.
This might be to create a divisional group structure representing different websites or geographical regions. On the basis that a third party could no longer register these company names, it would be unlikely that the current owner would take this course of action to secure the titles as the 1 October regulations would effectively already render them safe.