Companies House have unveiled the latest business names to be rejected under its stringent guidelines – but when is it really “too rude to register”?
Companies House seems an unlikely bastion of moral standards, but it has a statutory obligation to reject company names that it deems too “offensive”. So it has just confirmed that last year it refused to register over 50 such applications.
As a result, there is no Blue Arsed Fly Limited, Sod it Systems Limited, or even Wags to Bitches Limited currently registered in the UK.
The Companies Act highlights that Secretary of State has the ultimate say as to whether a name is offensive or not, although statute fails to offer any additional specific guidance on what is arguably a subjective subject.
The disclosure follows a freedom of information request; Companies House has since pointed out that names can be adopted if there is suitable justification. Quite what that justification might be is a matter for the registrar.
Whether or not a name is offensive is also something of concern to the Intellectual Property Office, the public body that oversees trademark registrations. Their own guidelines stem from trademark law which is separate and distinct from company law, and these provide that marks cannot be registered if they are contrary to accepted principles of morality.
With branding and name recognition often the key to commercial success there is clearly a strong temptation for business owners to choose something memorable, which may also be offensive. Before embarking on an expensive marketing or branding campaign it is worth considering whether your name choice might present any legal risks.
The commercial department at Pinney Talfourd is well placed to consider your company branding proposals and can help advise on how this should and can be protected. For further information, call us or email by using the form to the right.This article was written by Edward Garston, a company commercial solicitor at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2018.