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Want to register a new company? First know the six rules for naming your company or the CIPC will reject it

by , 17 February 2015
You're wrong if you think you can start a new company and name it however you please.

The Companies Act is clear about what you can and can't do when you name a company.
And it's important you stick to its guidelines. If you don't, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) will reject your name when you register.

And this only means one thing: It will delay your plans of getting your company up and running on time.

Read on to discover the six rules for naming a company so you can comply with the Act when registering a company and get approval the first time around.

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Six rules for naming a company you want to register

1. The Practical Accountancy Loose Leaf Service explains that your company name can't be the same as the name of:
  • A registered external company, close corporation or co-operative; or
  • A registered trademark.
For example, you can't call your company L'Oréal because there's already a company by this name.
2. You can't use a mark, word or expression that's under protection by the Merchandise Marks Act of 1941.
3. Your company name mustn't be similar to a name, trademark, mark, word, expression or defensive name.
This means, you can't, for example, name a hamburger dish in your restaurant as 'Brian's Big Mac. This is because it's similar to McDonald's existing trademark and could cause some confusion.
4. Your company name mustn't falsely imply that you have a link to another person or entity.
For example, you can't name your company Steven Spielberg's Video Shop if your company doesn't have any association with Steven Spielberg.
5. When you name your company, you mustn't include any word, expression or symbol which amounts to war propaganda, incites violence or promotes race, gender or religious hate.
6. Your company name can be in any language and include:

  • Any letters;
  • Numbers;
  • Translations of foreign words;
  • Punctuation marks; and
  • Symbols.
Just bear in mind that every word in your company's name must be in the alphabet that we use to write in South Africa. For example, if you want to open a Greek restaurant and you want it to have a Greek name, you can't use symbols from the Greek alphabet.
Your restaurant can still have a Greek name but you must write the name in the Roman alphabet which we use for English – one of the official languages of South Africa.

To be on the safe side, here's a useful tip you can use when naming your company

If you're not sure about your company's new name, submit it to the South African Human Rights Commission. They'll check that it doesn't infringe on anyone's human rights and that it doesn't promote hate speech. They'll give you comments and approve your name if it's suitable. You can email the commission at info@sahrc.org.za.
Now that you know these rules, stick to them when you name your company so the CIPC won't reject your application.
PS: For more information on company registration, check out the Practical Accountancy Loose Leaf Service.

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