Dear Design Doctor
How do I register a business and business name? Is that with Companies House or with the IPO, or is that for trademarking? I am getting really confused! Can you help please.
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust and The Design Doctor for Crafts magazine, answered this question:
‘To register a business and business name are two very different things, and it very much depends on what your chosen legal structure or format is.
If you are self-employed (you are working for yourself) then registering your business is very easy and straight forward in the UK.
All you need to do is to register your business with HMRC for tax purposes and self-employment. It is a legal requirement that you register your business when you start to promote and sell your work. The HMRC website states that you must register by ‘the 5th of October at the latest following the end of the tax year you want to file for.’
You can register your business online at any time, and it takes 15min or so. You can find more details on how to register for self-employment and what your responsibilities are here.
Your business name
To register yourself as self-employed you can use your own name or a business name, but there are a couple of rules on what business name you can use as a sole trader, and which words you cannot include.
You also need to check if nobody else is using your name on the Companies House website, and also check if nobody has a trademark using your selected business name.
Protecting your business name
Very few soletraders trademark their name as it is very expensive to maintain internationally. Often a trademark is used for established businesses only, when your are able to commercially exploit your business name, logo and brand. The best protection is the copyright that you already own automatically from your business name, and by creating a profile within your field. If you want to learn more about how to trademark your business name and logo/brand check here.
Organisations that can help you with more information about intellectual property, trademark and copyright are:
- The IPO, Intellectual Property Organisation, provides a lot of free information and webinars.
- The British Library has a lot of free blog posts on their site on starting and growing your business, how to protect your business idea and more. They very regularly provides workshops in London, and can give detailed expert IP advice too.
- ACID Anti-Copying In Design is a membership organisation for creative businesses that provides a lot of practical advice around protecting your ideas, designs and products.
Registering your name for a website does NOT mean that you can use this name legally (see notes on trademarks and Company House above) and it is useful to check if your business name is available as a web address.
If you want to know if a business name has been registered with Companies House as a limited business, been trademarked or is in use on the internet check out the start.biz website, which offers all these options in one place.
If you are not a soletrader and want to register your business as a limited company, partnership or other legal format then registering your business and business name is slightly more complicated. I would strongly recommend that you contact an accountant or legal adviser to help you. Limited companies need to be registered with Companies House. For details of how to register your business or business name as a limited company see the gov.uk website.’
Want to get some ideas for a creative business name?
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Check out our blog post where 16 creative businesses share the story behind their business name.
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