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Business name ideas – how to do a UK trademark search

3-minute read

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling

14 April 2022

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Finding the right name for your business is hugely important. It’s the first impression most people will have of your company and could play a big role in the growth of your brand.

So, how do you make sure that you’ve picked a name no one else is using? Read our UK trademark search guide to find out how to protect your brand and check your name is unique.

Intellectual property law (also known as IP) protects ideas you’ve come up with, such as a brand name.

Many businesses choose to trademark their name to give it an identifying mark and to stop other companies from using it.

If you’re a new business or going through a rebrand, it’s important to check whether your name is already being used.

To do this, you can carry out a trademark name search of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) database through the government website.

If your name has already been trademarked, it’s likely you’ll need to come up with a new one. If it hasn’t, it’s worth considering whether you want to trademark the name so no one else can use it. A standard online trademark application costs £200.

It’s important to note that you can’t trademark your business name if it’s a literal description of your product or service, such as calling a food processor “The Food Blender”. However, if you come up with a unique name for your food processor, you could trademark it if no one else has already.

Why do new businesses need to do a trademark search UK?

If you use a trademark that’s the same as or similar to one someone else is using for products or services in the same sector, they could take legal action against you.

This could leave you with a hefty legal bill, which for small or new businesses could be difficult to recover from. For example, Waitrose took legal action against ASDA for launching a “Just Essentials” discount range of products. Waitrose said it had already trademarked the “essentials” name.

Equally, if you’ve come up with a great, unique name, finding out it hasn’t been trademarked can speed up your launch. You’ll also have the opportunity to trademark the name and protect your brand in the future.

Read our intellectual property guide for more information about the laws around trademarking and copyright. We also have a guide to using third-party images and copyright rules.

A registered trademark search is an important step in establishing your brand and minimising the threat of legal action.

You can find details of existing UK trademarks, such as when it was registered and who owns it, by carrying out a trademark search of the Intellectual Property Office database.

The ways you can search for a trademark include:

  • by keyword, phrase, or image
  • by trademark owner
  • by trademark number

If you’ve come up with a great name, it’s highly likely you’ll be searching by keyword or phrase.

When completing a trademark name search, it’s also worth checking the IPO’s online journal. This allows you to see any trademark applications or amendments that have been accepted in the last week.

Carrying out a trademark search yourself is fairly simple. However, some companies choose to work with a third-party provider or intellectual property expert to make sure they’re doing it properly.

Does a business name count as a trademark?

When you launch a business with a great name you may be thinking, is my business name automatically trademarked?

It won’t be unless you’ve applied for a trademark and had the application accepted.

It’s not a legal requirement to trademark your business name, and it’s important not to confuse trademarking with registering your company with Companies House.

How to come up with a name for your business

What makes a good name for a new or rebranded business? Most importantly, it needs to be memorable and engage your target audience.

Here are some of the the key questions to consider when choosing a name for your business:

  • does the name work online?
  • have you tested the name with your target audience?
  • what does the name say about your business?
  • is the name easy to understand and share

Read our article on why your business name matters for further tips.

Brainstorming session at the office
Flamingo Images/

Still looking for inspiration? Here at Simply Business, we’re celebrating the wit and creativity of Britain’s small businesses with our TV ad You name it. We insure it.

Our ad features four real businesses with witty names, including hairdressing salon Curl Up and Dye and landscaping business Rough Around the Hedges.

We’ve also got a Business Name Generator to give you some light-hearted ideas if you’re looking for a new company name.

More tips for starting your business

Alongside having a memorable name and strong brand, there are many other important parts of launching a successful business.

Here are some handy guides and templates to help you on your way:

Intellectual property and trademarking is a complex topic, so remember to speak to a legal expert if you're not sure of anything.

What do you think makes a good business name? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Written by

Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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