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10th April 2019



Bad company

When you set up a business in the UK, you can call it pretty much anything you like as long as your proposed name isn’t already taken and isn’t going to be confusing or fraudulent. Oh, and it mustn’t be offensive either.

Much fun was had earlier this year when Companies House (BrandSoup’s Official Quango of the Year 2019) published a list of names they had rejected over the last 12 months.

None of the rejected names seems like a great loss to UK plc – and most are too rude to reproduce here. ‘****** Limited’ and ‘**** ***** Limited’, for example, are completely beyond the pale and as for ‘**** **** **** Limited’, well, the less said about that the better. Mind you, BrandSoup isn’t sure what’s so wrong with ‘Titanic Holdings Limited’. Or ‘Slag Limited’. Perhaps they do indeed trade in industrial by-products.

Knowing how we British like to carry on, many companies are tempted to include some “witty innuendo” in their names, but there are limits and BrandSoup can certainly see why the more coarse, sexual or misogynistic suggestions got rejected.

But there is a serious side to this silly-season story. A public system for the incorporation and naming of limited liability businesses is essential to a modern functioning economy and is not something which should be subverted for cheap laughs (although plenty of us seem to like doing it).

Everyone’s got their own standards, of course, and there’s plenty of scope for disagreement. We would LOVE to know the story behind ‘This Is Not A Rude Company Name As My Freedom Of Speech Was Limited’. There’s also ‘Rude Limited’ (which clearly isn’t, but points for effort), and ‘This Is The Company With The Longest Name So Far Incorporated At The Registry Of Companies In England And Wales And Encompassing The Registries Based In Scotland and Northern Ireland Up Until And Including The Current Date Limited’ (which isn’t rude, but just plain silly).

Royalty gets special protection too. You can’t register anything which might falsely suggest a connection to the Crown, which would explain why the otherwise unobjectionable ‘Royal Nuts Limited’ might have found itself on the Companies Houses list.

It’s good to know our sensibilities and our corporate names are in safe hands, even if occasionally a marginal call sneaks through. ‘Hoof Hearted Limited’ might cause a snigger or two in classrooms across the land but it’s unlikely to threaten civilisation as we know it.

If you have any questions about the latest BrandSoup article, or wish to discuss your intellectual property needs, please contact Thrings partner and BrandSoup author, Graeme Fearon, or another member of Thrings’ Intellectual Property team.

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