Your company name is an important and valuable part of your business. You might want it to reflect what the company does, or the attitudes and ideals that you want your company to embody. But South African law has specific things to say about what a company name can and cannot be. Section 11 of the Companies Act sets out the criteria for a company name.  If you cannot think of a name that meets these criteria, your company’s registration number can be its name.

Your company name can be

Your company name can consist of:

  • words in any language
  • words that are not commonly used
  • any letters, numbers or punctuation marks
  • any of the following symbols: +, &, #, @, %, =
  • any other symbol permitted by the regulations (made under subsection 4)
  • round brackets used in pairs to isolate any other part of the name

Your company name cannot be

Your company name must not be the same as (or similar to):

  • the name of another company or CC
  • someone else’s defensive name or business name
  • someone else’s registered trademark
  • a mark on merchandise

It must also not falsely imply that the company:

  • is part of any other person or entity
  • is an organ of state or a court
  • is owned by a person having any particular educational designation or who is a regulated person
  • is owned by any government or international organisation

And it must also not include anything that is:

  • propaganda for war
  • incitement of imminent violence
  • advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, or incitement to cause harm

Why must you give four names?

The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) require four names in case any of the names are not eligible. We understand that you have probably given it a lot of thought and have settled on one name that you want to call your company. The reality is, however, that the name you choose might be similar to a company that you didn’t even know about, or ineligible for some other reason. If you only give one name and the name is not allowed, CIPC may register it with your registration number as the name, or reject the application and you will have to start again. This will take time and delay the registration of your company.

Do you need to reserve a name?

No, you do not need to reserve a name before you register the company. Many people still think that a name must first be reserved. This is not correct.

Under the old Companies Act you had to first reserve a name, but the new Companies Act removes this requirement. You can still reserve a name if you want to, but it isn’t obligatory.