If you want to protect a business name that you are currently using, or you simply want to prohibit another company from using or registering a particular name for any other reason, you can set a UK limited company for these very purposes. No two companies are legally permitted to be registered under the same name, nor can they register names that are so similar to one another they are likely to cause confusion, unless they are part of the same group.
Company formation, therefore, is one of the steps you can take towards fully protecting your business name and brand. However, this alone does not offer ultimate protection. You should also consider registering your business name as a trade mark and a domain name (learn more about registered address service benefits here.)
Setting up a UK company
Company incorporations in the UK are processed and approved by Companies House, which is an executive government sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. You can make a direct application to Companies House, but it is quicker to go through an online company formation agency. The application requirements and procedure are very simple, and the vast majority of registrations are approved by Companies House within 1-3 hours. When this happens, your company name will be protected from registration by any other company.
If you are not going to trade through your new company, you can register a dormant trading status at HMRC after incorporation. By doing so, you will not be required to submit full accounts or tax returns. Dormant companies do, however, still have to maintain certain filing and reporting obligations, which include:
- Delivering an annual Confirmation Statement (previously an ‘Annual Return’).
- Filing dormant company accounts at Companies House every year.
- Maintaining a registered office address.
- Keeping statutory registers at the registered office address and making them available for inspection.
- Reporting changes to Companies House, and in some cases HMRC.
If you do plan to trade through the company, you will have to register with HMRC for business taxes, including Corporation Tax. Full statutory accounts and a company tax return must be delivered to HMRC each year. You will also be required to send normal annual accounts to Companies House and adhere to the filing and reporting obligations listed above.
Registering a trademark
Company incorporation does not provide trademark protection for a company name. Without trademark protection, there is nothing to stop someone else from registering your company name as a trademark. Unfortunately, international registration is not possible – you must make separate applications in each country However, it is possible to register an EU-wide trademark.
Trademarks are valid for 10 years, after which time you will need to renew each one to maintain full protection of your company name. There is no need to renew your company incorporation – this will last for the entire life of your company or until such time it is dissolved.
Registering a domain name
Even if you’re not planning to set up a website in your company name, registering it as a domain ensures no one else can use the name as a website address. Company registration alone does not prohibit this. Trade mark protection does, but it can be time-consuming and costly to rectify an intellectual property dispute.
You may not think that anyone else will want to register your company name as a domain, and you may be right, but it’s better to be on the safe side. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are unable to set up a website or email account in your company name. The annual cost of maintaining domain registration is minimal, so it’s a worthwhile decision.