When converting to an academy or expanding to become a multi-academy trust, choosing a name for your academy or academy trust will probably be the last thing you will be concerned with, but there are things to watch out for. This article briefly outlines the key issues to consider.

For a start, you will need to ensure that the proposed company name is not the same as, or too similar to, that of another company name registered at Companies House. Stone King can assist you with carrying out this search.

For both trust and individual academy names, if you intend to use certain sensitive words (such as “royal,” “university” or “Sheffield”), the prior consent of the Secretary of State (or of other specified authorities) is needed. The consent process can take some time, so should be addressed well in advance of the proposed change of name. Again, Stone King can assist you with this process. Words such as “co-operative,” “federation” or “foundation” can only be used in a trust or academy name if an appropriate justification is given to Companies House, although this usually relatively straightforward for academy trusts.

Even if all the above requirements are met, the name could still be challenged at a later date if it infringes the intellectual property (“IP”) rights of individuals or other organisations. In particular, you will need to make sure that your name does not infringe a registered trade mark, pass off the goodwill and reputation of another organisation, or use the name of a famous person or organisation without their permission.

Finally, once a name has been decided upon, you should, before implementing it, consider whether and how you will protect the name against misuse by others. An effective brand protection strategy (which could include registering a trade mark) could save you considerable costs in the long-term, as well as prevent reputational damage. 

If you would like advice on protecting your brand and/or avoiding infringement, please contact our brand specialist, Gavin Llewellyn in our IP team.

To conclude, so as to prevent problems arising when selecting a school or trust name, it is recommended that:

  • You are original in your choice of name;
  • General search engine and Companies House online searches are made against your proposed name;
  • Searches are made of the UK and EU trade mark registers;
  • Where relevant, searches are made to check for any overseas registrations of the proposed name.

Considering legal requirements when deciding on a trust or academy name is crucial. Failure to do so could result in delays and could lead to your organisation facing a costly legal challenge or being forced to change its name at a later date.  Stone King can assist you with each of the issues highlighted in this article. We are experienced in providing brand protection and clearance advice.

If you would like further information, Stone King retainer clients can request a copy of our guides to choosing company and academy names.