How to Choose an ACRA-Approved Name for Your Business
Choosing the right business name is important. The name of your business will define its image, and will also be what your customers identify your business with.
Marketing considerations aside, you also have to ensure that your chosen business name will be approved for registration by the Singapore Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) in the first place. Read on to find out how you can choose an ACRA-approved name for your business.
Restrictions on the Registration of Business Names
Following section 17 of the Business Names Registration Act, ACRA will refuse to register a business name that is:
- Undesirable. For example, the business name is obscene or religious in nature;
- Identical to an already reserved name(s). Reserved business name are names already approved by ACRA but not registered because the business entity behind the reserved business name has not been incorporated yet. Business names are reserved for at least 60 days, and up to 120 days;
- Identical to other registered business name(s); and
- Prohibited by order of the Minister for Finance. Currently, only the word “Temasek” is not accepted for registration.
ACRA may allow you to register a business name identical to the name of a business that has already dissolved or ceased to carry on business in Singapore if a certain period of time has passed. Depending on the type of legal entity the other business was, the relevant time periods are as follows:
|The other business was a:||You can register that business’ name as your own business name after the passing of at least:|
|Business name whose reservation and registration was cancelled, or where the business has ceased||1 year after the date of cancellation or cessation|
|Company which was wound up||2 years after the date of dissolution|
|Company struck off the register||6 years after the date of dissolution|
|Limited partnership whose registration was cancelled||1 year after the date of cancellation|
|Limited partnership which gave notice of its dissolution to ACRA||1 year after the date of dissolution|
|Limited liability partnership which was wound up||2 years after the date of dissolution|
|Limited liability partnership struck off the register||6 years after the date of dissolution|
|Foreign company which gave notice that it has ceased to have a place of business in Singapore, or ceased to carry on business in Singapore||3 months after the date of cessation|
|Foreign company which gave notice of its dissolution to ACRA||2 years after the date of dissolution|
|Foreign company whose name was struck off the register||6 years after the date of its name being struck off|
Checking for Identical Names
To check whether your proposed business name is already in use by another business, you can do an online search for it using search engines such as Google.
On top of that, you are also highly encouraged to run your proposed business name through the entity search function on the BizFile+ website.
To do a comprehensive name search on BizFile+, try adopting the following search guidelines issued by ACRA:
1. Key in only part of your proposed business name, instead of the whole name.
For example, if you intend to register “Soundtrack Computers”, try also checking for:
- “Sound Track”
- “The Sound”
- “Sound – Track”
2. Check for names with similar pronunciations.
For example, if your proposed business name includes the word “Wah”, try also checking for:
3. Check for names which are in a different sequence.
For example, if your proposed business name is “Bags Big and Small”, try also checking for:
- “Bags Small and Big”
- “Big and Small Bags”
- “Small and Big Bags”
4. Check for names with similar meanings as your proposed business name.
For example, if your proposed business name is “Red Fashion”, try also checking for:
- “Red Boutique”
- “Red Apparel”
After you have run the search, the entity search system will return a list of businesses with names that are identical or similar to your proposed business name (if any) for you to view.
When deciding whether your proposed business name is similar to the name of another business entity, you may disregard the following (see section 2 of the Business Names Registration (Identical Names) Regulations 2015 for the full list):
This is where the word “the” is the first word of the business name.
(b) Suffixes relating to what kind of legal entity the business is, such as:
- “Private” or “Pte”
- “Limited” or “Ltd”
- “Limited Liability Partnership” or “LLP”
- “Sendirian” or “Sdn”
- “Berhad” or “Bhd”
(c) The following words/expressions where they appear at the end of the name:
- “company” or “and company”
- “Asia” or “Asia Pacific”
- “South Asia” or “South East Asia”
(d) The plural version of the name;
(e) The type and case of letters (i.e. uppercase or lowercase), spacing between letters, and punctuation marks.
What about Registering Business Names that are Similar (but Not Identical) to Other Already Registered Business Names?
By now, you might have noticed that while the law prohibits the registration of identical names, there is a chance that ACRA will still approve the registration of a business name similar to the name(s) of an existing business(es). Hence, you may be tempted to choose a business name that is similar to the name of an existing business.
Be careful however, as this may put yourself at risk of being sued for the tort of passing off. This may occur if the other business (whose name is similar to the business name you want to register) thinks that you are trying to imitate their business, and pass off your business as theirs. Read more about the tort of passing off here.
You’ve Decided on Your Business Name! What’s Next?
After deciding on your business name, you should also consider protecting it by registering it as a trade mark. There are many benefits of doing so, such as getting the exclusive right to use your business name in relation to the goods/services which it is registered under. Find out how to trade mark your business name here.
Choosing a good business name is clearly not that straightforward. You may have spent ages coming up with a name which you think is perfect for your brand, only to find that ACRA will not approve its registration. This is especially if the name has already been taken.
If you need legal advice on choosing an ACRA-approved business name in Singapore, feel free to get in touch with one of our corporate and commercial lawyers.
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