To register your business, you must first name it as a private limited company (Ltd), a limited liability partnership (LLP), a limited partnership (LP), an ‘ordinary’ business partnership or as a sole trader. A sole trader or ordinary business partnership doesn't have to register with Companies House, but are required to follow the rules for choosing a business name.

Choosing your trading name

Search the Companies House register to check that you chosen name has not already been taken. Your business cannot have the same name as a company already registered. A registered company or LLP name cannot be too similar to another registered name, unless your company or LLP is part of the same group and you have permission to use the name from the existing registered company or LLP.

You cannot change an existing name with punctuation e.g., “Safe & Sound” when “Safe and Sound” is already registered. Similarly, “ Ltd”, “Shoe UK Ltd” and “Shoe's Ltd” are unacceptable if “Shoe Ltd” is already registered.

When choosing a name, you cannot be offensive or use a ‘sensitive’ word or expression without permission. Names that suggest a connection with government or local authorities are prohibited.

If your name is 'too like' a name registered before yours, e.g., 'Feebee Electronics LLP' is too like 'Phoebe Electronics LLP' a complaint may be raised at Companies House who will contact you with their advice.

Choosing your business name

Your business name can be different to your trading name, though business names cannot include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’ or be the same as an existing trade mark. Business names cannot contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression without permission You can use the business name on your stationery and correspondence, but depending on your legal structure you must include the names of your partners, the company name and your personal name if you’re a sole trader.

The names of most private limited companies in the UK must end in either ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’. You can apply to leave ‘limited’ out of your name if your company is limited by guarantee and your articles of association say your company:

  • has objects of promotion or regulation of commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity or any profession
  • must spend its income on promoting its objects
  • cannot pay its members, e.g., through dividends
  • requires each member to contribute to company assets if it’s wound up during their membership, or within a year of their membership ending

Finally, Registering a company or partnership name or using a business name does not protect it as a trade mark. Check the trade mark registry.