(a) OMG F**K :–) Limited
(b) Sheffield University Patent Licensing Institute
Answer: (a) is now permitted, (b) requires permission.
Two UK statutory instruments (SIs) came into force on 31 January 2015, each of which has a very boring traditional name, with no use of symbols or accents, and only sensible punctuation:
- The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014; and
- The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015.
The first of these SIs (the 2014 Regulations) updates the list of names that require permission before they can be registered with the UK Companies Registry (Companies House). The second SI (the 2015 Regulations) covers various points of detail relating to business names, but for present purposes we are concerned with the relaxation of the rules governing the letters and symbols that can be used in company names.
Sheffield University Patent Licensing Institute
The Government has attempted to “cut red tape” by reducing the number of names that require permission. However, many names still remain on the list. Before giving permission for a company to include those names, Companies House (on behalf of the Secretary of State) must take into account the views of various stakeholders – Government departments and others. The second company name mentioned above is an extreme example, as every part of its name requires permission. Before permitting this name, Companies House would have to consult with:
- The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire (for “Sheffield” – because Sheffield Steel is well known)
- The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (for “University”)
- The Patent Office (for “Patent”)
In addition, Companies House would need to give permission for “Licensing” and “Institute” but these names do not require any specific consultation with others.
This company may be permitted to omit the word “Limited” from its name if it is a company limited by guarantee and meets some other criteria described in Regulation 3 of the 2015 Regulations.
In summary, it may be very hard work getting permission to have this name registered.
OMG F**K :–) Limited
By contrast, the first name mentioned above does not require any specific permissions. Under the 2015 Regulations, one is now able to register company names that include numbers, punctuation, symbols and accented (ie foreign) letters, though in some cases these cannot be used as the first 3 letters of the company’s name.
Companies House continues to have the power to reject a company name if it is offensive. However, as it has previously permitted the registration of FCUK Limited, it would be odd if it rejected a name that includes F**K.
The 2015 Regulations include provisions about rejecting names that are similar to existing names and use symbols such as “*”. These might be relevant if the proposed company name is “F**K Limited” (ie very similar to FCUK Limited), but the presence of other letters in the first example above brings us outside this territory. There are other companies whose name starts with OMG, but none that is followed by F**K.
While the name may be acceptable as a company name, this blog posting will probably fail to get through your office internet filters. Sorry about that! &*%!