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Press Notice
CHPN 03/11 (GEN)
DATE 5 November 2003

THE PERILS OF THE NAME GAME

Companies often spend a great deal of time and money choosing a name. Unfortunately, all this time and money could be wasted if the choice of name is rejected by Companies House because it is the same as an existing name on the Registrar’s Index of Names. When choosing a name it is advisable to check what names have already been registered. Companies House provides a free search facility of the Index on its website www.companieshouse.gov.uk and you can also check the availability of a name by ringing them on +44 (0)303 1234 500. It should be noted that, although a name may be accepted for registration, this does not preclude the company from being directed to change its name if it is considered to be “too like” an existing name on the Index. Registration of a name is also no indication that proprietary rights such as trade marks, logos, trading names etc., do not exist in a name or part of a name. Therefore, it is advisable to thoroughly research your choice of name before registering it.

Companies House is aware of allegations being made that, individuals have acted on information obtained from the Press and other sources to register a name apparently so as to block any subsequent application for that name and to seek payment for releasing the name to an interested party. The Companies Act does not contain any special provisions to deal with names which have been registered in these circumstances, often referred to as “opportunistic registration” or “name squatting”. An aggrieved party would need to seek legal advice and look outside the company law arena to see whether it could take any action.

As Company names cannot be reserved you may wish to consider whether there are any steps you can take to safeguard your choice of name. For example, you may be able to ensure that the choice of name is not made public until that name has been registered by you at Companies House.

What about the future? The Government is currently undertaking a long-term project to modernise British Company Law. This began in 1998 with the launch of an independent review of core Company Law with the final report published in July 2001. Among the suggestions for change, the Review recommended that there should be provision for a person to apply to the courts for a direction to a company to change its name in certain circumstances. Applicants could call on this provision where they could show that a name had been chosen with the intention of demanding money to release the name.

In July 2002 the Government published the White Paper Modernising Company Law which set out the Government’s initial response to the Review’s conclusions. This paper outlined the plan for introducing legislation to reform Company Law and contained the first element of a new draft Companies Bill. The White Paper did not, however, outline policy towards company names or include new draft provisions on that subject. If you wish to make any representations on this subject, you should contact Anne Scrope of the Companies Bill Team. Her e-mail address is Anne.Scrope@dti.gsi.gov.uk or she may be contacted in writing at the following address:-

Companies Bill Team
DTI
5th Floor
1 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0ET

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. Companies House is an executive agency of DTI. It is responsible for the incorporation and dissolution of companies; for the registration of information supplied by them under the Companies Act and related legislation, and for making this information available to the public.
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