Company name or trading name – what is the difference?

What’s in a name is a question often asked. Well, quite a lot actually when it comes to establishing a business.

A business registered at Companies House may have a different trading name, maybe more than one.

For instance, if your company is registered under names like Neil Down, Terry Bull or Teresa Green, you may decide to give your business a different trading name.

What is a company name?

This is the name of the business as registered at Companies House, and the name used on any legal documents relating to the business.

It must be unique and cannot look or sound like another company.

You must include your company’s name on all company documents, marketing materials and letters.

On business letters, order forms and websites, you must show:

  • The company’s registered number
  • Its registered office address
  • Where the company is registered (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland)
  • The fact that it’s a limited company (usually by spelling out the company’s full name including ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’)

What are trading names?

You can also trade using a different name from your registered name. This is known as a ‘business name’ or ‘trading name’.

Although not bound by the same rules as company names, trading names must not: 

  • Include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’ 
  • Contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression unless you get permission

Businesses should still take care and conduct checks to make sure that they do not breach an existing trademark, or be accused of passing off or misrepresentation.

It doesn’t actually need to be registered anywhere and doesn’t have the same restrictions as the company name.

A single company can have many trading names, or they can just choose to use their company name as their trading name. For example, a company might acquire a business whose name attracts customer loyalty, so the new owners may keep that name.

What about trademarks?
Trading names and trademarks are different, and a trademark is a way of registering a name as Intellectual Property (IP).

This prevents rogue businesses from pretending to be another company and siphoning off their customers.

A trademark can be a name, a logo, or anything that can distinguish your goods or services from a competitor.

Names and trademarks can be complicated, and Companies House advises getting professional advice.

Need help with organising your business? Contact us today.

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