Sensitive Words - What to consider when choosing a name

The words below are classed as sensitive. If you want to register a company name that contains one of these words, you have to submit a justification with the registration documents or change of name resolution. The following restrictions apply to the registration of a company name:

    • If it is a limited company, the name must end with `Limited' (if a private company) or `public limited company' or `PLC' if a public company. This is intended as a warning to those dealing with the company that the members liability is limited
    • It must not be the same as a name already registered - for these purposes, certain things are disregarded when determining whether one name is the same as another, these are:

  • (1) "AND" and "&";
    (2) "PLUS" and "+"
    (3) "0", "ZERO" and "0"
    (4) "1" and "ONE"
    (5) "2", "TWO", "TOO" and "TOO"
    (6) "3" and "THREE"
    (7) "4", "FOUR" and "FOR"
    (8) "5" and "FIVE";
    (9) "6" and "SIX";
    (10) "7" and "SEVEN";
    (11) "8" and "EIGHT";
    (12) "9" and "NINE";
    (13) "£" and "POUND"
    (14) "€" and "EURO";
    (15) "$" and "DOLLAR";
    (16) "¥" and "YEN";
    (17) "%", "PER CENT", "PERCENT", "PER CENTUM" and "PERCENTUM"; and
    (18) "@" and "AT";
    (19) "BIZ";
    (20) "CO";
    (21) "CO.UK";
    (22) "CO UK";
    (23) "COM";
    (24) "COMPANY";
    (25) "EU";
    (26) "EXPORTS";
    (27) "GB";
    (28) "GREAT BRITAIN"; (See below for details)
    (29) "GROUP"; (See below for details)
    (30) "HOLDINGS"; (See below for details)
    (31) "IMPORTS";
    (32) "INTERNATIONAL"; (See below for details)
    (33) "NET";
    (34) "NI";
    (35) "NORTHERN IRELAND"; (See below for details)
    (36) "ORG";
    (37) "ORG UK";
    (38) "SERVICES";
    (39) "UK"; (See below for details)
    (40) "UNITED KINGDOM"; (See below for details)
    (41) "WALES"; (See below for details)
    (42) "ALLFORION";
    (43) "CWMNI";
    (44) "CYM";
    (45) "CYMRU";
    (46) "CYNHELIAID";
    (47) "CYRDDAU";
    (48) "DU";
    (49) "GRWP";
    (50) "GWASANAETHAU";
    (51) "MEWNFORION";
    (52) "PF";
    (53) "PRYDAIN FAWR";
    (54) "RHYNGWLADOL";
    (55) "RYNGWLADOL";
    (56) "Y DEYRNAS UNEDIG"

    Sensitive Words and Expressions

    These are words and expressions that, when used in a company name, may imply business pre-eminence, a particular status or a specific function. For this reason, they have been prescribed in regulations as requiring the approval of the Secretary of State. The aim is to ensure that use of the word is justified so that the public is not misled by the name. Companies House act on behalf of the Secretary of State in dealing with applications for approval of such words and expressions.

    The following words imply national or international pre-eminence:

    British - approval of this word in your company name will depend on how it is used. Normally the Secretary of State would expect the company to be British owned. You would need to show that the company is pre-eminent in its field by providing supporting evidence from an independent source such as a Government department or a trade association.

    If the word 'British' is qualified by words that do not describe an activity or product, for example by using a 'made-up' word, then evidence of pre-eminence is not necessarily essential. But you would be expected to show that your company is substantial in relation to its activity or product and that it is eminent in its own field.

    England, English, Scotland, Scottish, Wales, Welsh, Ireland - if you wish to use these words as a prefix to your company name, the rules are similar to those for 'British'. You will usually be given approval to use any of these words as a suffix if you show that the company has its main place of business in the country concerned. If you want to use one of these words because it is a surname, you will usually be given approval if the company name includes forenames or initials.

    European - names which include this word will not be approved if they unjustifiably imply a connection with official bodies of the European Union. If there is a genuine connection with an official body, the name may be allowed if the appropriate body supports the application.

    Great Britain or United Kingdom, UK, GB - if you wish to use these expressions as a prefix, or to use 'of Great Britain' or 'of the United Kingdom' as a suffix, then the criteria are the same as for 'British'. If the words are used as a suffix to the name, they are normally allowed without difficulty.

    International - if you wish to use this word as a prefix, you need to show that the major part of the company's activities is in trading overseas. If you wish to use it as a suffix, then approval will usually be given if you can show that the company operates in two or more overseas countries.

    National - the criteria for use of this word are the same as for 'British'.

    The following words imply business pre-eminence or representative or authoritative status:

    association, federation - if you wish to use one of these words, your company would normally be limited by guarantee. Each member should have one vote and the constitution should contain a non-profit distribution clause. This provides that any profits should be used to further the objects of the company and not be paid to the members as dividends.

    authority, board - if you want to use any of these words, you should ask us for advice. If the company is to be registered in Scotland, contact Companies House in Edinburgh.

    institute or institution - approval for use of these words is normally given only to those organisations which are carrying out research at the highest level or to professional bodies of the highest standing. You will need to show us that there is a need for the proposed institute and that it has appropriate regulations or examination standards. You will need evidence of support from other representative and independent bodies.

    Government - approval for use of this word will be granted only if Companies House is satisfied that there is not any official connection with the HMG, any part of the Scottish or Welsh administration. The whole company name will be taken into consideration and judged independently on its own merits.

    HSC (Health and Social Care) - Companies House may consult DHSSPS (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety) when considering the approval of names containing this word as it could foster a misleading impression among patients, service users and wider public that the business enjoys an approved status in connection with the Health and Social Care.

    HPSS (Health and Personal Social Services) - Companies House may consult DHSSPS (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety) when considering the approval of names containing this word as it could foster a misleading impression among patients, service users and wider public that the business enjoys an approved status in connection with the Health and Personal Social Services.

    assurance, assurer, insurance, insurer, re-assurance, re-assurer, re-insurance or re-insurer - if the name is needed for an underwriting company, we will normally seek further advice. However, if you want to use the name for a company that will only provide insurance services, then you should include the appropriate qualification, for example 'agents', 'consultants' or 'services', in the name.

    benevolent, foundation or fund - names that include any of these words will be refused if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company has charitable status. If the company is limited by guarantee and has a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association, then the name will normally be approved.

    charter - names that include these words will be refused if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company has a Royal Charter. If the words are used to qualify a profession, we will seek the advice of the appropriate governing body before considering whether to give approval.

    charity - to use this word the company must provide a letter of non-objection from the Charity Commission. If the company is not intended to be a charity, a copy of the proposed memorandum and articles of association along with details of the company activities and an explanation of why the word is required must be forwarded to the Charity Commission

    chemist - if you want to use these words, you should ask for advice from Companies House in Cardiff. If the company is to be registered in Scotland, contact Companies House in Edinburgh.

    co-operative - if you wish to use this word, your company's Memorandum and Articles of Association should follow the rules generally associated with co-operatives in the UK. If you need further advice you should contact Companies House in Cardiff. If the company is to be registered in Scotland, contact Companies House in Edinburgh.

    Friendly Society or Industrial and Provident Society - we will refer names which include these expressions to the Registrar of Friendly Societies for advice. If you want to use them in your company name, you should first ask Companies House in Cardiff. If the company is to be registered in Scotland, contact Companies House in Edinburgh.

    group - if use of this word implies several companies under one corporate ownership, then you will need to provide evidence of a parent and/or subsidiary association with two or more other British or overseas companies. If the name clearly shows that the company is to promote the interests of a group of individuals, then the name will normally be approved.

    holding(s) - a company wishing to use this word must be a holding company as defined under section 736 of the Companies Act 1985.

    patent or patentee - a name including either word will only be approved if it does not contravene the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.

    post office - Companies House are likely to seek advice on applications that include these words.

    register - we treat every application for use of these words on its merits. Generally, we will seek advice from the appropriate governing body if names that include these words are linked with a professional qualification. The name will not be registered if it unjustifiably implies a connection with HM Government or a local authority. If such a connection actually exists, the name may be allowed if the appropriate body supports the application.

    sheffield - if you wish to use a name that includes the word 'Sheffield', we will need to establish details of the company's location and its business activities. We will also consult the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.

    stock exchange - names including this expression will normally be refused unless there are special circumstances.

    trade union - names including this expression will normally be refused unless they conform to legislation relating to trade unions.

    trust - the word 'trust' can be used in many different senses. Each application is dealt with on its merits but the main uses of this word are as follows:

    charitable trust - these companies need to have charitable objects and a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association. You will be asked for confirmation that you have made, or will make, an application for registration as a charity with the Charity Commission. Scottish companies wishing to use the expression 'charitable trust' will need to apply to the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in Edinburgh as the Charity Commission has no jurisdiction in Scotland.

    educational trust or artistic trust - such companies should have a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association and the name should reflect the nature of the trust. The promoters should be of high standing in the field.

    enterprise trust - these companies must have a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association and they must be able to provide evidence of support from, for example, local authorities, businesses or banks.

    family trust - such companies must be non-profit distributing and the objects must reflect the nature of the trust. Names of family trusts will usually be approved if the name as a whole identifies the company as such.

    financial trust - if you wish to use these expressions, you will need to provide a written assurance that substantial paid-up share capital or other funds will be achieved within a reasonable period after incorporation.

    pensions or staff trust - the names of such companies must include the name of the parent company, and the objects of the company must include the operation of pension funds.

    unit trust - if you wish to use this as part of your company name, you should seek the advice of Companies House in Cardiff. If the company is to be registered in Scotland, contact Companies House in Edinburgh.



    You will need the approval of the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform before you use any of the following words or expressions (or their plural or possessive forms) in your chosen company name.

    (a) Words which imply national or international pre-eminence:
     
    British International Scottish
    England Ireland United Kingdom
    English Irish Wales
    European National Welsh
    Great Britain Scotland  
     
    (b) Words which imply business pre-eminence or representative or authoritative status:
     
    Association Council HPSS (Health and Personal Social Services)
    Authority Institution HSC (Health and Social Care)
    Government Federation Society
    Board Institute  
     
    (c) Words which imply specific objects or functions:
     
    Assurance Fund Re-assurer
    Assurer Group Register
    Benevolent Holding Registered
    Charter Industrial & Provident Society
    Chartered Insurance Re-insurer
    Chemist Insurer Sheffield
    Chemistry Patent Stock exchange
    Co-operative Patentee Trade union
    Foundation Post office Trust
    Friendly Society Reassurance  
     
    Words or expressions in the following list need the approval of the Secretary of State. If you want to use any of them in your company name you will need to write first to the relevant body to ask if they have any objection to its use. When you apply for approval to use the name you should tell Companies House that you have written to the relevant body and enclose a copy of the reply you have received.
     
    Word or Expression
    Relevant Body for companies intending
    to have registered office in England or Wales

    Charity, Charitable

    Head of Status
    Charity Commission
    Woodfield House
    Tangier
    Taunton TA1 4BL

    Contact Lens

    The Registrar
    General Optical Council
    41 Harley Street
    London W1N 2DJ

    Dental, Dentistry

    The Registrar
    General Dental Council
    37 Wimpole Street
    London W1M 8DQ

    District Nurse,
    Health Visitor,
    Midwife, Midwifery,
    Nurse, Nursing

    The Registrar &
    Chief Executive
    United Kingdom Central
    Council for Nursing,
    Midwifery and Health Visiting
    23 Portland Place
    London W1N 3AF

     Health Centre

    Office of the Solicitor
    Department of Health &
    Social Security
    48 Carey Street
    London WC2A 2LS

     Health Service

    Penny Turner
    Head of Branding
    Department of Health
    Room 230B, Skipton House
    80 London Road
    London SE1 6LH

    NHS (National Health Service)

    Mike Pattrick
    Office of the Solicitor
    Dept of Health, Room 518,
    New Court 48,Carey Street
    London WC2A 2LS
    Tel 0207 412 1225

     Police

    Pauline Laybourne
    Briefing and Honours Team
    CRCSG Change and Support Unit
    3rd Floor A, Fry Building
    2 Marsham Street
    London SW1P 4DF

     Polytechnic

    Department of Education
    and Science
    FHE 1B, Sanctuary Buildings
    Great Smith Street
    Westminster
    London SW1P 3BT

    Pregnancy,
    Termination,
    Abortion

    Department of Health
    Area 423
    Wellington House
    133-135 Waterloo Road
    London SE1 8UG

    Royal, Royale,
    Royalty, King,
    Queen, Prince, Princess,
    Windsor, Duke,
    His/Her Majesty

    (If based in England)
    Linda Henshaw
    Ministry of Justice
    Constitutional Settlement Division
    6 th Floor - Point 6B
    Selbourne House
    54 Victoria Street London SW1E 6QW

    (If based in Wales)
    The National Assembly for Wales
    Crown Buildings
    Cathays Park
    Cardiff CF10 3NQ

     Special School

    Clinton Roche
    Department for Education and Skills
    Caxton House
    6-12 Tothill Street
    London
    SWlH 9NA

    Tel: 0870 0012345

     University

    Privy Council Office
    2 Carlton Gardens
    London SW1Y 5AA

       
     
    Certain words or expressions are covered by other legislation and their use in company names might be a criminal offence. These are listed below. If you want to use any of these words or expressions in your company name, then you should contact the relevant regulatory authority or ask us for advice before proceeding. We may seek independent advice from the relevant body.
     

    Word or Expression

    Relevant Body

    Anzac

    Seek advice of Companies House

    Legislation:
    Section 1 Anzac Act 1916

    Architect

    Architects Registration Board
    73 Hallam Street
    London W1N 6EE

    Legislation:
    Section 20 Architects
    Registration Act 1997

    Building Society

    Seek advice of
    Building Societies Commission
    Victoria House
    30-40 Kingsway
    London WC2B 6ES

    Legislation:
    Building Society Act 1986

    Chamber(s) of Business, Chamber(s) of Commerce,
    Chamber(s) of Commerce and Industry,
    Chamber(s) of Commerce, Training and Enterprise,
    Chamber(s) of Enterprise,
    Chamber(s) of Industry
    Chamber(s) of Trade,
    Chamber(s) of Trade and Industry,
    Chamber(s) of Training,
    Chamber(s) of Training and Enterprise
    or the Welsh translations of these words

    Guidance is available from Companies House

    Legislation:
    Company and Business Names (Chamber of Commerce etc.) Act 1999

    Chiropodist, Dietician,
    Medical Laboratory,
    Technician,
    Occupational Therapist,
    Orthoptist,
    Physiotherapist,
    Radiographer,
    Remedial Gymnast

    Mrs Joan Arnott
    Department of Health
    HRD HRB
    Rm 2N35A
    Quarry House
    Quarry Hill
    Leeds LS2 7JE

    Legislation:
    Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960 if preceded by Registered, State or
    Registere

    Chiropractor

    The Chief Executive
    General Chiropractic Council
    44 Wicklow Street, London
    WC1X 9HL

    Legislation:
    Chiropractors Act 1994

     

    Credit Union

    The Public Records Section
    Financial Services Authority
    25 The North Colonnade
    Canary Wharf
    London E14 5HS

    Legislation:
    Credit Union Act 1979

     

    Dentist,
    Dental Surgeon,
    Dental Practitioner,

    The Registrar
    General Dental Council
    37 Wimpole Street
    London W1M 8DQ

    Legislation:
    Dental Act 1984

     

    Druggist,
    Pharmaceutical,
    Pharmaceutist,
    Pharmacist,
    Pharmacy

    The Director of Legal Services
    The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain
    1 Lambeth High Street
    London SE1 7JN
    (for Scottish Registered Companies)
    The Pharmaceutical Society
    36 York Place
    Edinburgh EH13HU

    Legislation:
    Section 78 Medicines Act 1968

    Institute of Laryngology,
    Institute of Otology,
    Institute of Urology,
    Institute of Orthopaedics,

    Seek advice of University College London
    Gower Street
    London
    WC1E 6BT

    Legislation:
    University College London Act 1988

    Patent Office,
    Patent Agent

    IPPD (Intellectual Property Policy Directorate)
    Room 3B38, Concept House

    UK Intellectual Property Office, Cardiff Road,
    Newport, NP10 8QQ

    Legislation:
    Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

    Olympiad,
    Olympiads,
    Olympian,
    Olympians,
    Olympic,
    Olympics,
    Paralympic,
    Paralympics,
    Paralympiad,
    Paralympiads,
    Paralympian,
    Paralympians,

    translation of these or words so similar to these protected words

    The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Limited (LOCOG)

    23rd Floor
    1 Churchill Place
    Canary Wharf
    London
    E14 5LN

    Legislation:
    Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995 (as amended)*

    Use of such words may infringe the rights of the British Olympic Association/British Paralympic Association.

    *Also protects the Olympic symbols of five interlocking rings; the Olympic motto "Citius Altius Fortius"(“Faster, Higher, Stronger”); the Paralympic symbol of three “agitos”; the Paralympic motto “Spirit in Motion”; and anything so similar to them.

    Following London’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 has been introduced. This provides further rights for the protection of Olympic words, symbols and marks relating to the Games. In addition to the protected words outlined in this booklet, the registration of a company name which includes specific words implying association with the London 2012 Games may infringe the rights of The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Limited (LOCOG) under this Act.

    Optician,
    Ophthalmic Optician,
    Dispensing Optician,
    Enrolled Optician,
    Registered Optician,
    Optometrist

    The Registrar
    General Optical Council
    41 Harley Street
    London W1N 2DJ

    Legislation:
    Opticians Act 1989

    Red Cross,
    Geneva Cross,
    Red Crescent,
    Red Lion and Sun

    Seek advice of Companies House

    Legislation:
    Geneva Convention Act 1957

     Solicitor (Scotland)

    The Law Society of Scotland
    26 Drumsheugh Gardens
    Edinburgh EH3 7YR

    Legislation:
    S.31, Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980

    Veterinary Surgeon,
    Veterinary, Vet

    The Registrar
    Royal College of
    Veterinary Surgeons
    62-64 Horseferry Rd
    London SW1P 2AF

    Legislation:
    Sections 19/20 Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

    Passing Off

    The main restriction on the use of a name (for any business whether sole trader, partnership or company) is that the name used for the business, or a very similar name, may already be in use by an existing business. The other business may be able to sue under Common Law for passing off as such a business. For a successful passing off action the company suing must show that it is established in business under that name or has some other right to its use and that the company being sued is conducting business in such a way as to infringe the original company's right to use their established name in such a way that the newcomer is likely to cause damage to the original company's business. The action is only usually available where the two companies are in a broadly similar line of business and the same or overlapping geographical areas. If the original company is successful it will obtain an injunction to stop the new company using the name. Damages may be available if infringement persists and there is, of course, the risk of legal costs

    Trade Marks

    Care must be taken to avoid setting up a company which will infringe a registered trade mark. In many cases a trade mark search should be undertaken before registering a company name, and trade mark registration should also be considered

    Full and comprehensive version of this document can be found at
    www.companieshouse.gov.uk