Trade secrets and other IP protection

Company name as intellectual property

Guide

Companies House is responsible for the registration of companies and company names in the UK. The rules for registering company names and trade marks are different - you have to register your company name, but this does not necessarily mean you can use it as a trade mark.

IP in trade marks

A trade mark must be distinctive, and unique to your business in the sector in which you operate. It must not mislead people about your products or services, but neither can it be a generic term which is used widely in your sector. For more information, see trade marks.

IP in company names

A company name must be unique to your business and, as with trade marks, there are rules about what you can and cannot use. Specifically, your company name must reflect your business and not mislead as to its size and status. There are also a number of sensitive words which you cannot use. For more information, see how to choose the right name for your business.

Once you register your company name, it becomes your property and no one else can use it. In addition, no one can register a company name which is sufficiently similar to be confusing to other businesses or individuals. This prevents opportunistic registrations, which is where someone registers a name simply in order to get you to buy it. The Company Names Tribunal deals with complaints about opportunistic registrations.

Protecting your company name

There is a strong interaction between trade marks, company name registrations and domain names. When you decide on your company name which will represent your business to the public, make sure that you protect this name with any means possible. See more on domain name and trade mark conflicts.