In the UK, company names are registered via Companies House. We are not qualified to assist in the registration of company names, but further details of the company name registration process can be found on the Companies House website.
It is important to note that company law is different from trade mark law, and that you cannot prevent someone using a trade mark which is the same or similar to yours merely by registering your company name with Companies House. However, when selecting a new company name you should ensure that your company name does not conflict with an existing trade mark, and we would be happy to assist you with the necessary searches.
Your use of a company name which is identical or confusingly similar to an existing trade mark could constitute trade mark infringement and/or passing off, and the owner of the earlier mark may be entitled to seek an injunction preventing your use of said company name and/or requiring you to change your company name. In addition, the Company Names Adjudicator Rules 2008 established a system whereby a person or business may object to the registration of a company name that is either the same as a name in which the Applicant has a reputation/goodwill, or sufficiently similar to such a name that its use in the UK would be likely to mislead by suggesting a connection between the company and the Applicant, where such registration is abusive or opportunistic.
Action against abusive Company Name registrations
On 1 October 2008, the Company Names Adjudicator Rules 2008 came into force, giving effect to Sections 69 – 74 of the Companies Act 2006. This introduced a system of adjudication in instances where a person or business objects to the registration of a company name that is abusive or opportunistic.
Under this system, a person or business (the Applicant) may object to the registration of a company name that is either:
a. the same as a name in which the Applicant has a reputation/goodwill, or
b. sufficiently similar to such a name that its use in the UK would be likely to mislead by suggesting a connection between the company and the Applicant.
Proceedings are administered by the Company Names Tribunal and cases are decided by Company Names Adjudicators, who are Hearing Officers based at the UK Intellectual Property Office.
Prior to October 2008, there was no specific procedure in place for objecting to a company name registration on the basis of IP rights, and the only real option available to an IP rights owner was to bring proceedings for trade mark infringement and/or passing off, and to seek an injunction requiring the registrant to change its company
name. The current system is designed to provide a quicker and cheaper remedy to those affected by abusive company name registrations.
Some important points to note about the system are:
In order to fall under the jurisdiction of the Company Names Tribunal, the company name registration must be abusive or opportunistic, i.e. there must be an intention on the part of the Registrant to obtain money from the Applicant, or to prevent the Applicant from registering the name themselves.
The Companies Act 2006 sets out a wide range of defences on which the Registrant of a company name may rely, and the mere existence of earlier rights will not necessarily be sufficient to succeed in an application to the Company Names Tribunal.
If an application is successful, the Adjudicator will order the Registrant to change the company name registration to something which does not offend. If the Registrant does not do this, the Adjudicator has the power to order the Registrar of Companies to change the name to a name of the Adjudicator’s choosing.
The Company Names Adjudicator may also award costs to any party in the proceedings. Such costs will normally be awarded according to the published Scale of Costs, and will not represent the actual costs incurred.