We’ve been helping a number of clients recently start new businesses (mainly limited companies) and one of the biggest challenges they face is choosing a name. I’ve quickly pulled this guide together to help you.

There are a few simple checks I think everyone looking to setup a business should do before deciding that’s the name for them. It can sometimes be really frustrating to come up with a name and then perform simple checks to discover it’s not going to work for you. Here are a few pointers which might help you in your own process:

  1. Check Companies House to ensure no-one has a company with your name already. Even if you are planning to trade as a sole trader or partnership it’s worth checking before you get tied up with a larger organisation in a legal battle over “passing off” on their brand. As a branding process is expensive and setting up a business is time consuming; so the last thing you want is to worry about legal issues.
  2. Jump on a domain registration site, these sites have a search box which allows you to see which domain names are available. When you have done all your checks remember to try and buy every combination of domain name within reason as you need to protect your brand. This means protecting both singular and plurals of your name. A little common sense goes a long way when purchasing domain names. It might be worth checking similar domain names and the content they have on the site.
  3. Search for your chosen name through a few search engines. Google is a good starting point and note that I say starting point. Google will tell you if anyone is trading under your name as a partnership or sole trader. If they are don’t let it put you off, they might be in a completely different market. It’s sometimes difficult to have a company name that is completely unique. Oh and don’t forget if you’re going to sell internationally to check the meaning in other languages. Something many people forget when checking a company name in Google.
  4. Urban Slang should be your next port of call with the likes of wikipidea and urban dictionary. This is where a little creative thinking comes into play to see if your name has any adverse or hidden connotations – this could be Internet, school or urban slang.
  5. Intellectual Property (IP) most people never think about trademarks at this stage as they think this is more to do with symbols and logos. However, people / companies can register Keyword phrases so this is definitely worth checking. Follow this link to take you to the Intellectual Property Office which will allow you to run a search. This can be quite a confusing process when you’re not familiar with the classification guide but information can be easily found on the website.
  6. Make your claim! As soon as you’ve found a name and all the checks are giving you good news.

These checks only take about 10 -20 minutes, so use the tips above to give your brand the best chance to penetrate the market. Although it can be annoying to go back to the drawing board after finding your dream business name it’s better to foresee potential problems early.