How To Choose a Business Name That Is Approved By ACRA

Having the right business name is extremely important. Your business name will determine its image, direction, and also how your customers will identify you in the future. In this article, we will guide you on how to choose a business name that is approved by ACRA.

Besides marketing, you need to ensure the chosen business name will be approved for registration with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).

Restrictions on business names registration

In accordance with section 17 of the Business Names Registration Act, ACRA has the right to refuse registering a business name that is:

  • Undesirable. Typically if the name is obscene or religiously offensive;
  • Identical to an already reserved name. Reserved business names are basically already approved but not yet registered, due to the company or entity with the reserved business name is not incorporated yet. Business names will be reserved for minimally 60 days and not more than 120 days;
  • Identical to other registered business names;
  • Prohibited by order from the Singapore Minister of Finance. As of now, the only word that is not accepted is ‘Temasek’.

You can refer to our previous article on changing your company name here.

ACRA may allow registration of a business name that is identical to a business that has already been dissolved or has ceased to continue business in Singapore after a period of time has passed. It depends on the structure of the legal entity this other business was, the corresponding time periods are below:

The other business was: You are allowed to register that business’ name as your own after (at least):
Reservation and registration of business name was cancelled, or where the business has ceased One year after cancellation or cessation date
A wound-up company Two years after the dissolution date
A company that was struck off the register Six years after the dissolution date
Cancelled registration of a limited partnership One year after the cancellation date
A limited partnership that is dissolved and given notice to ACRA One year after the dissolution date
Limited liability partnership (LLP) that was wound up Two years after the dissolution date
LLP that was struck off the register Six years after the dissolution date
A foreign entity that has given notice it has ceased having a place of business in Singapore or ceased its operations in Singapore Three months after the cessation date
A foreign company that has given notice to ACRA of its dissolution Two years after the dissolution date
A foreign company that was struck off the register Six years after the date of its name being struck off

How to check for identical names

Search engine

The easiest way to check if your preferred business name is already in use by someone else is simply to do an internet search by using search engines like Google.

IPOS Go

You can also do a search using a mobile app called “IPOS Go” – which is developed by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. It allows new business owners to do a quick search for existing business names and also domain (website) names, registered trademarks and social media accounts usernames, to help you decide on an appropriate name.

Just key in the preferred name and the app will show you if similar names have already been registered. Below is a screen capture of how the app looks like.

"IPOS Go" app interface to search for existing brand names, trademarks, domains and social medias

What if my business name is similar (but not identical) to others?

While the law forbids the registration of identical names, it is possible that ACRA will approve the registration of a business name that is similar to the name of an existing business. Therefore, you might be tempted to pick a name that is similar to the name of an existing one.

However, be aware that this may risk you and your stakeholders being sued for the tort of passing off. This can happen if the other business (whose name is similar to yours) thinks you are trying to pass off yourself as their business. In the event that this happens, you should consult a lawyer immediately.

What is next?

After you have decided on the business name, you may consider protecting it by registering it as a trademark. There are numerous benefits, one example is using your business name exclusively with regards to the goods/services under which it is registered. You can read more on how to register a trademark here.

Picking a suitable business name is clearly so straightforward. You may possibly spend a lot of time thinking of a name that you think is perfect for the brand, only to discover ACRA will not approve the registration. Especially if the name is taken.

The moment you found your ideal business name, we advised that you should find a registered filing agent to help register it as soon as possible. Feel free to contact us if you require assistance with registering your business or to ensure you fulfil the regulatory compliance needed.

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