|BUSINESS AND COMPANY NAMES
Frequently Asked Questions
The general guidance below is provided to be helpful and is not intended to be comprehensive. It should not be regarded as being a complete source of law and information, and readers are advised to seek independent professional advice. The General Dental Council (GDC) does not take any responsibility for the consequences of errors or omissions.
Q1 What is the difference between a company name and a business name?
A1 A company name is the registered name of a limited company, such as “XYZ Limited”. A company name must be registered with Companies House (see section 9 of the Companies Act 2006).
Not all businesses are companies and those that are companies may chose to trade under a different name from their registered name. A ‘business name’ is any name under which someone carries on business (other than their own name). In general, company and business names are governed by the Part 5 of the Companies Act 2006 and Regulations made under the Companies Act 2006, such as the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009 and the Company and Business Names (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2009. This legislation applies to any person who has a place of business in the United Kingdom and who carries on business in the United Kingdom.
If you have a question about corporate dentistry generally, please call:
Customer Enquiries Team on 020 7167 6200
Q2 What role does the GDC have in relation to company and business names?
A2 The words ‘dental’ and ‘dentistry’ are restricted words under the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009. This means that anyone wanting to use these words as part of a company or business name must:
To request a letter of non-objection from the GDC please send an email to the following address, stating the proposed business name and business activity:
It would help us process your enquiry faster if you included the following information:
Proposed business/company name
Business activity, e.g. dental suppliers, dental practice, dental laboratory
Full postal address
Your full name and (if registered with the GDC) your registration number.
Note: The titles ‘dentist’, ‘dental surgeon’ and ‘dental practitioner’ are covered separately under section 39 of the Dentists Act 1984, which says that no one can use these titles (either alone or in combination with any other word) unless they are registered dentists or visiting EEA practitioners entered in the list of such practitioners. Specified titles in relation to professions complementary to dentistry are set out in The General Dental Council (Professions Complementary to Dentistry) Regulations Order of Council 2006. Under section 39(2A) of the Dentists Act 1984, a person who is not a registered dental care professional shall not take or use any title specified in these Regulations, either alone or in combination with any other word.
Q3 On what basis would the GDC object to the words ‘dental’ or ‘dentistry’ in a company or business name?
A3 The GDC is concerned not to let the name of the company mislead people as to the nature of the company’s business. The GDC’s policy is that a name involving the words ‘dental’ or ‘dentistry’ should clearly indicate the nature of the services to be provided. For example, a company requests the non-objection of the GDC to the name Acme Dental Services Limited. The GDC would object to this because it does not make it clear whether the company provides dental treatment or not.
We would suggest alternative names that would clearly indicate the nature of the services to be provided. For example, if this business was a dental practice, we would recommend the name Acme Dental Practice Limited, or if it was a company providing training to members of the dental team, we would suggest an alternative name that would clearly indicate the nature of the services to be provided, for example, Acme Dental Training Services Limited.
Where the nature of the services to be provided is clear from the name of the company, we would not object.
Q4 Do we have to check whether the name being applied for is already in use?
A4 No. It is not the GDC’s role to check whether another company or business has the same name. Our concern is confined to whether the name will mislead. We can still give a letter of non-objection for a name that has been used before.
Companies House will not register a company name that is the same or very similar to another company on the register. Companies House also deals with business names on behalf of the Secretary of State. For business names, more than one business can have the same name as long as it doesn’t cause confusion.
Q5 How should people wishing to use ‘dental’ or ‘dentistry’ in a company or business name apply to us?
A5 Section 56 of the Companies Act 2006 and the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009 both require that requests for letters of non-objection must be in writing. Therefore, we must receive a request in writing, which can be emailed to us, before we can do anything. The request should indicate the proposed name and the nature of the business. See A2.
Q6 Do we have standard response letters?
A6 Yes. We have two standard letters:
These are sometimes modified depending on the circumstances.
We warn applicants that their business/company name has to be approved by the Secretary of State via Companies House, because otherwise someone may think that they can use the name once they have a non-objection letter from us (which isn’t the case).
Q7 What about domain names?
A7 A domain name is an Internet address name. For example, the GDC’s domain name is gdc-uk.org. In some circumstances, the use of a domain name may be a business name for the purpose of the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009. If so, then the GDC will have to issue a letter of non-objection before a domain name containing the words dental or dentistry can be used.
Q8 Under what circumstances will a domain name be a business name?
A8 The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009 applies to a person who has a place of business in the United Kingdom and who carries on business in the United Kingdom. If a domain name satisfies these criteria, then it may well be a business name (although see the notes below as to cases where it probably won’t be).
The place of business requirement will be a question of fact and can be ascertained by evidence that:
business can be transacted through the website
the business is aimed at customers in the United Kingdom
a level of business is actually conducted by customers in the United Kingdom.
The carrying on business in the United Kingdom requirement may be proved by evidence that:
transactions are conducted through the website
the domain name is used as a mark of identification
the domain name serves as advertising for the business.
The domain name probably won’t be a business name if:
the website simply involves a passive provision of information
it is the access point for a business being carried on under a different name
it used its registered company name as its domain name. The name would have had to be approved in the process of being registered.
Q9 How do we deal with a domain name request?
A9 (a) Consider the request
Decide whether or not the GDC objects to the proposed domain name
Communicate the decision to the applicant (in the form of a letter of non-objection if appropriate) but always indicating that:
The GDC’s involvement only arises within the terms of the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009 and is dealt with in the same way
Approval for the use of the business name must (if it falls within the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2009) be sought from the Secretary of State
The letter of non-objection should not be taken as approval to use the domain name as a business name.
Q10 What if my business name does not include the words ‘dental’ or ‘dentistry’? Do I need a letter of non-objection?
A10 No. You do not need a letter of non-objection from the GDC if your business/company name does not include the words ‘dental’ or ‘dentistry’.