Don't get caught out by ‘Sensitive words and expressions’
The importance of choosing a successful business name seems quite simple, doesn’t it? This single aspect of registering a new company is a critical piece of the puzzle you don’t want to catch you out.
What are sensitive words and expressions?
Certain words and phrases, because of their potential to mislead, confuse and/or offend the general public by suggesting a specific function, affiliation, status, or business pre-eminence. Therefore, the use of any such words in a company name requires approval from the Secretary of State or other relevant authority before it can be registered with Companies House. If permission is granted from the appropriate governing body, you must provide Companies House with appropriate supporting documentation to prove this is the case.
Let’s look at the 5 most popular sensitive words and expressions:
Bank, Banc or Banking
King, Queen or Royal
British or Britain
Chemist, Druggist, Pharmacy
The supporting documentation for sensitive words and expressions
If you wish to register a company name that contains any sensitive words or expressions, you must provide supporting documentation for Companies House from the appropriate government department or authorising body. This should be included with your application to register a new company. Without such documentation, your application will be rejected.
Bank, Banc and Banking
To use the word ‘Bank’ in your chosen name you must seek permission from the Financial Conduct Authority to confirm that they have no objection to use of this word in your company name.
King, Queen or Royal
If you wish to use the name Royal, Queen or King in a company, you must seek permission from the Cabinet Office in London, the Scottish Government in Edinburgh, or the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff, depending in which UK jurisdiction your business is registered. You will have to include relevant information to support your case, e.g. the history or your business and/or future plans; a relevant association with the Government or Royal family; the relation of the sensitive word to a street name or surname; your business is an established public house (or similar) that has been using a particular business name for a considerable period of time.
British or Britain
If you wish to use it at the start of your company name or ‘of Britain’ or ‘of Great Britain’ anywhere in the company name, you will need to demonstrate that the company is pre-eminent or very substantial in its field by providing independent support from a representative body, trade association or other relevant body. If ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ is not the first word in the name it will normally be allowed.
The words Britain or British cannot be used in any part of your company name if it implies a connection with a government department or body, or a local or specified public authority unless the relevant body confirms (letter or email) that it has no objection.
If you wish to use the British or Britain because it is a surname (and the name does not imply a connection with government), you will usually be given approval if the company name includes forenames or initials.
To use this word in your chosen name you must seek permission from the Architects Registration Board to confirm that they have no objection to use of this word in your company name.
This word is protected and controlled by Section 78 of the Medicines Act 1968. You cannot use this in your company name unless The General Pharmaceutical Council confirms (by letter or email) that you are authorised to use the relevant title. Druggist and pharmacy fall under the same regulations.
A few more useful bits...
A reputable company formation provider should allow you to upload your supporting documentation to Companies House online with your application. You should also be able to speak to someone knowledgeable in the event of your having a more complex name requirement.
If you would like further information about requirements surrounding company names, please feel free to get in touch with our team.