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Legal Considerations When Choosing a Business Name For Your Startup

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Selecting a name for your startup marks an exciting early phase of your new business venture. Choosing the right name is the first stage of establishing your brand’s identity. Beyond ensuring your brand name appeals to your target market and the name will be easily recognisable, there are several crucial legal considerations. From respecting existing trade marks to protecting your intellectual property rights, navigating the legal landscape is essential for preserving your startup’s reputation. This article will explain several legal aspects you should consider when choosing a name for your startup. 

1. It Should Not Infringe Other’s Rights 

When selecting your startup’s name, one of the most crucial legal considerations is ensuring it does not infringe upon anyone else’s rights. You must conduct thorough research to check for existing business names and trade marks that may conflict with a potential name. Your startup’s name should not be the same or similar to another business’s. Even if the punctuation in your proposed name differs from another’s, you can still infringe on their rights. 

If you miss this step, you might face costly legal disputes and damage to your newly established brand’s reputation. By conducting thorough due diligence, you can ensure that your proposed business name does not infringe upon other’s rights and mitigate the risk of legal disputes.

To ensure that your business name is not infringing on the rights of another business, you should: 

  • conduct a trade mark search to ensure no other organisation is already using your chosen name; 
  • perform a general online search to identify any conflicts, potential negative associations or cultural implications of your proposed name; and 
  • consider geographical implications, especially if you plan to operate your startup in other regions or countries.

2. Additional Requirements for Registering a New Company Name

Beyond ensuring that your startup’s name does not infringe on anyone else’s rights, you should keep some additional requirements in mind. Typically, founders register their startups with Companies House, although this depends on your chosen business structure. Companies House stipulate further requirements for business names. 

Firstly, you must avoid using a name that could potentially mislead customers. For instance, do not use words that suggest your startup provides a particular professional service if it does not offer such services. A misleading name could confuse your customers and potentially harm your startup’s reputation. Your startup’s name should also not be offensive, as this may create negative associations with your brand and alienate potential customers. 

In essence, you should aim to select a name that: 

  • accurately reflects your startup’s products or services, helping to establish trust with your target audience; and 
  • is inoffensive and aligns with your brand’s values. 
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3. Protecting Your Business Name 

Once you have chosen a suitable name for your startup, consider protecting it. Although protecting your intellectual property is not a legal requirement, it is a vital step in safeguarding your brand’s identity. 

By registering your startup’s name as a trade mark, you can secure exclusive rights to it and prevent others from using it without your permission. This step will provide legal routes for your startup should an unauthorised person use your trade mark. 

You should ensure that your startup is the legal owner of its business name, as this can avoid future complications. For instance, if your co-founder holds the trade mark rights and later exits the startup, they will retain control over the use of the name. This situation could lead to disruption and potential legal disputes.  

You should seek legal guidance to navigate the complexities of launching a startup. For example, a lawyer can help you protect your intellectual property and ensure the integrity of other aspects of your startup, such as its:

  • logo;
  • slogan; and
  • unique business processes.

Key Takeaways

Overall, your chosen business name should not be:

  • the same or similar to another’s; 
  • offensive; or
  • misleading. 

Choosing the right name for your startup involves more than just a creative brainstorming session. It entails carefully considering various legal aspects to ensure compliance, protect your brand and mitigate potential risks. Ensuring your chosen name does not infringe upon others’ rights is crucial. To identify potential conflicts, you must conduct thorough research, including a trade mark search and general online research. Moreover, you need to adhere to Companies House requirements, avoiding misleading or offensive names. 

Once you select a suitable name for your startup, it is essential to protect it. Registering the name as a trade mark will give your startup exclusive rights to use it and create routes for legal action against unauthorised use. 
If you would like legal advice when setting up your startup, including choosing a business name, our experienced startup lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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Jessica Drew

Jessica Drew

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