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A business name is the name used to identify your business, other than your own name. Until 1982, it was a legal requirement to register a business name, but since the Business Names Act 1985 was introduced, only limited companies or limited liability companies are required to register their business names.

The Business Names Act 1985 applies to all businesses that trade under any name other than your own name. For instance, a sole trader may carry out his business activities under a trading name. The Act covers four main areas, including the choice of business name, information that must be disclosed, information which must be disclosed and information that has to be provided to a third party when asked. The name that you choose for your business must not be the same or similar to any other business name already in use.

A private limited company must end in ‘limited’ or ‘ltd’. A public limited company name must end with ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’. Limited Liability Partnership companies must end their name with ‘limited liability partnership’ or ‘LLP’.

There are occasions when Companies House will refuse to register a company name. These include names which are offensive or would constitute a criminal offence, if the name implies connection with the government, either central or local, or other public authorities. Sensitive words or expressions are also to be avoided, especially if a company will trade overseas as some words can be offensive when translated. A name already in use or extremely similar to another won’t be registered by Companies House.

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