Choose the right name for your business

While it may be tempting to stamp your individual personality on your business name, you need to get it right. Choosing a name that reflects your business strategy can be more valuable.

Overview

First impressions count – customers may infer a lot from your business name.

While it may be tempting to try to stamp your individual personality on your business name, there are many other issues to consider. Being objective and choosing a name that reflects your business strategy can be more valuable, especially as your business develops.

This guide shows you how to create the right impression, display your business name, consider whether your business name will be your brand and get your name on the web. It also outlines the specific rules that you must follow when choosing a company name.

Choosing a business name to create the right impression

Your business name will be the cornerstone of your brand. It should work well wherever you use it – on the phone, in your logo, signage, stationery, advertisements, website, email and any other media you plan to use to reach the market.

When choosing a name for your business, you should think about the following points:

  • Do you want the name to reflect what your business does – moving, cleaning, building? Or would something more abstract be suitable?
  • Would it be a good idea to include your own name?
  • Do you want a traditional-sounding name, conveying durability and old-fashioned values, or a modern name, suggesting a fresh, innovative approach?
  • Think about the future – avoid words or phrases that are likely to date quickly.
  • If you’re likely to be trading overseas, check that the name doesn’t mean anything inappropriate in the relevant languages
  • Think about callers and customers – avoid very long names, strange wordings and unusual spelling. If you’re planning to advertise in directories such as the Yellow Pages, think about using a name that appears near the beginning of the listings for your type of business
  • If you’re focusing on the local market for your product or service, think about using the name of the city or town in the business name
  • Keep your trading name creative, but your corporate name bland. This will give you the flexibility to develop other brands and trading names in the future.

There are rules that could affect your choice of business name.

Names for limited companies

If you have decided to form a limited company, you must register your name and other details with the Register of Limited Companies.

You need to check that your proposed name does not breach the rules on name endings, ‘same as’ rules or include a prescribed or sensitive word without permission. You can search the business register to make sure that the name you have decided on is not already registered.

Company names

There are rules when choosing a company name. Company names must be clearly distinguishable from each other. A company name may not include a family name, a company name, a special name on a property or trademark that does not belong to the company, or anything that may cause confusion in this regard. A company name must not be construed as giving false information or error to humans. It must not indicate activities that are not for the purpose of the company. A company that indicates in its corporate name certain activities must change its corporate name when it changes its purpose and relates to activities other than those which the corporate name indicates unequivocally. The business name of a business enterprise must not contain a word or acronym that indicates a different form of business than the business has.

Trade marks

You should ensure your proposed name is not the same or very similar to a registered trade mark.

Names for sole proprietors and partnerships

People operating as sole proprietors or in general partnerships can trade under their own names, or choose a different business name.

If you decide to use a business name, it must not:

  • be offensive
  • include the terms public limited company (Hf), limited (Ehf)
  • contain prescribed or sensitive words and expressions, unless you have obtained permission to use them

Is anyone else using your proposed business name?

Before using your chosen name, check that it isn’t already being used.

If a sole trader at the other end of the country is using it, there may not be a problem. However, if another local business, company or national firm is using it, you should choose a different name.

You should do the following checks:

  • check local phone books, business directories and the internet
  • make sure that your proposed name – or something similar – hasn’t been registered by a company
  • make sure that the name isn’t too similar to a word or expression that has been registered as a trade mark.

If you’re in any doubt about your business name, seek expert advice from RSK.

Use of sensitive words and expressions in business names

There are some words and expressions that you can’t use in a business name unless you have official permission. These are words that might give a false impression about your business. They are known as sensitive words.

The rules about sensitive words apply to all types of businesses and fall into five main groups:

  • words that suggest your business is of national importance or status – eg Icelandic, National, International, European
  • words that suggest a special status – eg Association, Authority, Chartered, Council, Institute, Society
  • words that suggest a particular function – eg Charity, Insurance, Register, Trust
  • words that suggest a specialised activity – eg Health Centre
  • words that suggest connections with government or parliament

Displaying and disclosing your company name

Every business must display its business name – and other details – to inform customers and suppliers who they are dealing with. You should not print your stationery until you’re certain your proposed name is acceptable.

Companies must wait until registration is complete and a confirmation of registration has been issued.

A sole trader or partnership must obtain prior approval to use a sensitive word in their proposed business name.

You must display a sign with your company name:

  • in characters that can be easily read
  • in a place where visitors can easily and clearly see it at any time and not just during business hours
  • continuously

You must also include your company’s registered name on all hard copy and electronic business correspondence including:

  • letters, notices and other official publications
  • emails
  • bills of exchange, promissory notes, endorsements and order forms
  • cheques signed by or on behalf of the company
  • orders for money, goods or services signed by or on behalf of the company
  • bills of parcels, invoices and other demands for payment, receipts and letters of credit
  • your website – you do not need to include the company name on every page but it must be displayed so it can be easily read

You do not have to state directors’ names on business letters unless you want to do so. However, if you do decide to include directors’ names, then you must state all the directors’ names.

Displaying a name online

If your business has a website, you must display:

  • general information about your business – including business name, address, email address, company ID number, VAT registration number (if applicable)
  • details of any relevant professional body that you belong to or any authorisation scheme to which your service is subject

Getting your business name on the internet

Even if you are not intending to create a website for your business immediately, you’ll probably be using email and want to have a presence on the web at some point in the future.

Choosing a domain name

The website address – for example, my-new-business.is – is known as a domain name. For most businesses based in Iceland, a name ending with .is is suitable. Your email address will normally include this name – for example, enquiries@my-new-business.is.

Businesses and individuals that meet certain criteria can apply for the .eu domain extension – for example, www.my-new-business.eu.

If your business is active in other European Union countries, the .eu domain name can help you market your company as a pan-European business.

To reserve a domain name for your business, you need to register it through an agent, who will charge a small annual fee. You should do this as soon as possible – even if you’re not going to use your domain name straight away.

You cannot have a domain name that is the same name as a company registered with the register of limited companies.

Registering your domain name

  • Decide on a suitable domain name for your website – You can use numbers as well as letters. Hyphens can be used to separate words but not spaces, full stops or other punctuation. It’s a good idea to have a few alternative names in case your first choice has already been taken.
  • Check whether the name is available on the official registry for Icelandic domain names ISNIC.
  • Register the name – you can do this online with any registration agent. There are lots of registration agents to choose from – a good starting point is ISNIC.