Talha Fazlani from the TrademarkHub recommends thinking about trade marks when choosing your company name

Coming up with a new company name can seem like an easy task. It’s only one word or a few words after all. But there are a number of elements you can consider and company names do not have to use the same formula.

Naming your company

Some companies for example use simple but memorable names with a reason behind them. Nike is the Goddess of Victory in Greek mythology. Google comes from ‘googol’ which refers to a specific large number.

Other companies use abstract names – Twitter for example - while others, such as British Airways, use descriptive names. At the moment the trend is for unique and somewhat quirky names such as Uber and Slack.

Lightwork Business have listed a great top 5 list of tips on choosing your company name and while you’re running through this we would recommend you also think about trade marks at the same time.

As without a trade mark, the company name remains an unprotected asset unless there are exceptional circumstances.

What is a trade mark?

A registered trade mark is legal protection for your company's branding. It can be a word, logo, slogan or anything which uniquely identifies your company.

What do I need to do to register a trade mark?

Trade marks have a specific criteria which need to be met in order for it to be registered. In most cases, if not all, the trade mark is a company name. To get registered, it has to be unique and distinctive. When thinking of registering a trade mark, the first question you need to ask yourself is “will my sign (word, logo, slogan, etc…) be seen by the general public as a trade mark?”

This is what the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) will consider when examining a trade mark application.

Where is a trade mark registered?

Trade marks are also territorial in nature. If you were to trade only within the UK for example, then you would register a trade mark in the UK with the UK IPO.

Before filing a trade mark application, you need to check if the trade mark is available in the country or region of interest to you. Should an identical or similar sign already exist in the trade mark database under the same classification, your trade mark might not get registered. The owners of those earlier trade marks may therefore file an opposition to stop you from getting registration.

That is why it is always recommended to check the appropriate register before filing and consult with a trade mark attorney.

How does a trade mark benefit a company?

A trade mark gives you exclusive rights over a name, logo or slogan in relation to specific goods or services.

For example only Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) can use the slogan ‘finger lickin’ good’ for its fast food. Anyone else who uses it without permission is infringing their trade mark rights and would be liable to pay damages or profits earned to KFC. This is one of the main reasons why you need to register your trade mark.

What can’t be registered as a trade mark?

There are certain signs which are completely unregistrable as a trade mark. When coming up with your business name, you should therefore avoid the following:

  • A general description of your goods or services. For example ‘warm thermos’;
  • A description of your goods’ or service’s characteristics. For example ‘light vacuum’;
  • A lack of distinctiveness in a sign. For example ‘band-aid’; and
  • Names which are customary in the language of the trade. For example ‘Panadol’.

From a name to brand

Coming up with a company name is just the beginning of a brand. With the right name, and the right effort, the name can become a recognised asset of the company. This is why it must be simple, unique and distinctive. All qualities needed for it to be registered as a trade mark.


Talha Fazlani is Digital Marketing Manager for the TrademarkHub.

Latest from Basics of Business

5 key things about articles of association and shareholders agreements every new business owner should know

Posted on 17 September 2018

If you are planning to start a business and set up a limited company one thing is for certain. There...

Learn more

To be a limited company or not to be - the advantages and disadvantages of a limited company

Posted on 26 July 2018

When setting up a business in the UK you will need to decide what structure your business will take...

Learn more