Contractors’ Questions: Will Companies House protect my company name?

Contractor’s Question: Does registering a company name with Companies House afford some sort of intellectual property protection or other safeguard, in that the name I want should, onwards of me registering it, become immune to future challenge or use by others?

After all, I’d be listed on Companies House - the Registrar for companies in England and Wales – as the registrant of the name. I really doubt I’ll need to protect the name with a trade mark because Companies House already prohibits people from registering a company with a name identical to one already on its database.

Expert’s Answer: Firstly, registering your company name with Companies House does not give you any trade mark protection, nor does it give any rights to use that name.

Secondly, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that Companies House won’t let two companies register identical names. It is possible for more than one person to own the same trademark, as long as it’s for very different goods and services, which is why trade mark registries operate a system of classes. Owning a website address, which may be your next step, also offers no legal brand protection.

So what happens at Companies House has no relevance to intellectual property protection. Moreover, trademarks can be registered to a company or in the name of an individual, and the incorporation status has no bearing on whether a name can or cannot be used, or should be registered or not.

In your circumstances, you might consider creating a made-up name, as this is one of the easiest ways to a successful trade mark application. It’s one of the reasons brand names such as Viagra, Yakult and Accenture have come about.

The expert was Mark Kingsley-Williams, director of the UK’s leading online trade mark registration company Trade Mark Direct.

Editor's Note: Further Reading - CUK's legal guide to naming a limited company

Wednesday 27th April 2011