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Company name

The most important identifier of the company is the name. This is the main feature for the company to be identified by the business partners and other persons.

The name of company to be incorporated may be chosen freely but it must comply with the rules established in the country of incorporation. In most countries, such rules are similar in terms of meaning and differ only in detail. A brief description of these rules is given below:

Rule 1: The name of the company to be incorporated may not be the same as or very similar to the name of any company that already exists in the register of enterprises of the given country.

Different countries interpret this rule differently. For example, most offshore jurisdictions treat the issue of similar names quite liberally. As an example, if a company under the name Alpha Ltd. exists in the register, an application for registration of the names of Alpha 1 Ltd., Alpha 2 Ltd. etc. will be accepted. However, in the United Kingdom these names will be found to be too similar and may not be accepted for the registration. As an example, if the Register of Companies of England and Wales contains a company Rando Ltd., the names R and O Ltd. or R & O Ltd. will not be accepted for registration either. It should be noted that registers neither tend to see corporate abbreviation (such as Inc., Corp., or Ltd.) nor such words as Incorporated or Limited as a sign of distinction between the names of the company. As an example, it will be impossible in many countries to register a company with a name such as Alpha Limited if a company with the name Alpha Inc. has already been registered in that country.

Rule 2: The name of the company should not suggest that the company is related to any government bodies, indicate any activities that require a special license, or otherwise be misleading.

As an example, almost any country will not allow the use of such words as Bank, Insurance, Assurance, Trust, University, Academy in the name of a registered company without obtaining the appropriate licenses. In the United Kingdom, there are significantly more restrictions imposed on the use of specific words in the name of the company. Special authorization is required to register names containing such as words British, English, European, National, Fund or Sheffield. Additionally, even such frequently used words as Holding, International or Group require relevant permission.

Rule 3: In the event that a limited liability company is incorporated, the company name must end in a word or abbreviation indicating that it has limited liability such as Limited, Corporation, Ltd. or Corp. In certain countries the use of such abbreviations as GmbH, AG or SA may be used.

This rule is intended to ensure that in commercial transactions with the company potential lenders should understand immediately that in the event of insolvency they will only be able to rely on the company assets rather than those of the founders.

Rule 4: The name of the company may not conflict with any trademarks registered in the same country.

This rule may cause one to correctly believe that incorporation of a company under a large household name such as Ford, Xerox, Coca Cola is impossible. However, in addition to the above, a huge number of words around the world are protected by trademarks.

As an example, whilst even choosing to register a name such as Viacom Trading Ltd. or Virgin Resources Inc., the future owner may not be planning to imitate the existing brand at all. However, upon an attempt to incorporate a company under such name, even if the name is accepted for registration in a particular country, it is highly likely that within a very short space of time after such incorporation a letter from the legal department of Viacom or Virgin holdings will be received at the company address suggesting that the name of the registered company should be changed voluntarily.

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