Forming a company: new Government advice on choice of name

Via Twitter from the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills: news of a new service for people forming companies.  Companies House and the UK IPO have got together to provide a tool that enables one to search, in one easy move, whether a proposed company name is already registered as (a) a UK company name, or (b) a UK trade mark.

IP Draughts applauds this thoughtful, unflashy step in joined-up Government service for business, and would welcome more cooperation between Companies House and the UK IPO.

Playing with the search facility, we learnt that IP Draughts has not been registered as a company name or trade mark.  A large number of trade mark registrations exist for the word “draught”, almost all of them concerned with beer.  By contrast we discovered that IPKat has been registered as an EU trade mark by a Mr J Phillips (assisted by Olswang) but not as a company name.

A possible danger of such a service is that people may be lulled into a false sense of security by a negative search result, and may not do enough “thinking around”.  In other words, by using this search tool alone, they won’t get the added value that going to a trade mark agent or solicitor should bring.  Ideally, the web page would include some guidance notes and links to other sources of relevant information, including:

  • the search function does not seem to be particularly “intelligent”.  Unlike a Google search, it doesn’t seem to be able to ignore spaces (a search for IPDraughts threw up different results from IP Draughts).
  • guidance on the concept of unregistered trade marks / passing off
  • links to the Companies House guidance on restricted names
  • links to search facilities for domain names
  • the benefits of obtaining professional advice

These quibbles should not obscure the fact that Companies House and the UK IPO are thinking creatively about how to provide a better service to the public, using technology.  More of this, please!

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