Name Search of Hong Kong limited company

First step is to come up with the business name that is right and acceptable.

COMPANY NAME CHECK

When a person decides to incorporate a limited company, they can easily enjoy the benefits and deductions of taxes in Hong Kong. The limited business name in Hong Kong also gives you the advantage of a free trade agreement with Mainland China.

To initiate a company in Hong Kong, the first step is to come up with the business name that is right and acceptable. Here you would find out how to search for the name and choose the appropriate name as per the business name restrictions in Hong Kong.

Check the name availability

With the Hong Kong name search option available on the Startupr website, you can easily find if the company name that you want is already in use or is about to be registered. In this case, you are not allowed to use the company name that is similar or that is about to be used by another company.

The business name in Hong Kong can be either in Traditional Chinese, English or both languages, but the name cannot have a combination of the English and Chinese characters in one word. Another stipulation is that the company’s name has to end with the word “Limited” which can be in English or its equivalent in the Chinese language.

To find out if the actual company name is in use, you need to put in the complete and exact company name in the Hong Kong name search field on the website to get the right outcome. This includes any punctuation marks, spaces, and even the ending terms such as the “Company,” “有限公司,” “Limited,” “公司,” “Company Limited,” etc.

Other things to keep in mind while searching for the Company’s name

Make sure that the name you are searching for in the Hong Kong name search does not contain words of any other language or isn’t in simplified Chinese characters. This would result in an incorrect search outcome where you would get the result as “no matching record found.” And this would eventually lead to the disapproval of the company name when sent to the Company Registry.

The confirmed name for the registration of a company is confirmed only after the Company Registry has processed the documents in the application. The applicant also needs to search for trademarks at http://ipsearch.ipd.gov.hk/ which is the Intellectual Property Department’s Online Search System prior to selecting the name of the company to avoid the risks of trademark infringement.

Am I free to choose any name I want for my company?

Even though deciding a company’s name might seem like a small matter, it is actually crucial for every business. As mentioned above, you cannot use the company name that is in the process of being registered or is already registered and this can be checked on the search field available in the Startupr website.

Here are some of the main rules that need to be followed when choosing the business name in Hong Kong:

Uniqueness

A company name cannot be used if it is in the process of being registered or is already registered. Determine if the name is being used by Hong Kong name search on the Startupr website. It cannot be similar to any other company’s name as well.

Government Names

A business name that may give the impression that it is linked to any government depart like the Central People’s Government or the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or any other government agency directly connected with the Hong Kong government is strictly prohibited.

The name would only be allowed if the company is genuinely connected with the government and the verification has been done for it. The use of words like the “Authority”(委員會), “Council”(議會), “Federation”(聯邦), “Bureau”(局), “Commission”(公署), “Government”(政府), or “Department”(部門), would imply as a connection with the government and would not be approved normally.

Language

As mentioned above as well, the company name has to be either in Traditional Chinese or English, without combining the languages together.

Limited vs. Ltd

The name has to end with a “Limited” or the Chinese equivalent, but the abbreviation of “Ltd” is not allowed for the official business name in Hong Kong.

Correctness

As per the Hong Kong Registrar, if the name is offensive or its use constitutes a criminal offense or is contrary to the interests of the public, it cannot be used. Also, there are some specified words that are not permitted when naming a company in Hong Kong. The examples of many are shared in the following sections.

Same as the one that had the direction of “Name Change”

In case the name of the company is still the same after the Registrar has put a direction for a name change, it would be disapproved. This is a regulation as per the Company Ordinances and the Registrar, where you would have to then start the process all over again.

The final approval is confirmed only when the Hong Kong government has no objections on the name of the business. But before this, the Registrar’s approval is mandatory as mentioned above where the noted points have to be kept in mind as well.

Name that are “too alike”

Avoid using the name for a company that is said to be “too alike” to another company’s name. To explain this further – if a company name, as per the Registrar’s Index of Company Names, is said to be just like another company name, or if the Registrar gets a court order for restricting a company from using a name or a part of the name of the company, the Registrar would issue the change of name direction against the business.

If the company does not comply with the direction, it can result in the prosecution of the business or/and the officers in charge. There is a maximum fine of $100,000 along with a daily default fine of $2000 for continuing default.

There are situations where the Registrar can also change the name of the company with the company registration number. Stricter regulations have been put in place for the business names in Hong Kong due to the past incorporated companies that have similar registered trademarks or well-known brand names.

Details on Hong Kong Shadow Companies

These companies are known as the “Shadow Companies” that wrongfully pose themselves as delegates of the owners of logos or brand names. And so that this problem is adequately addressed, the Registrar has been and would happily continue the following actions for the same cases:

  • Distributing a direction to change the name that comes under the sections section 108(2), 108(1)(a) and (b).
  • When a company does not comply with the directions to change the name, the Registrar would:
    – take legal action against the officers in charge and/or the company.
    – alter the name of the company as well as the registration number under the section of 110(2).
    – put the company’s name on the default published List of Companies on the website of the Companies Registry to alert the members of the identities of the companies that are in default.
    – remove the name from the Companies Register agreeable to Division 1 of Part 15 of the Companies Ordinance. This is only if there is a fair cause to consider that the business in question is not carrying on business or operating.

Furthermore, it must also be noted that if the name that is adopted violates the intellectual property rights of any third party, there may be a legal action that is by that third party. Violation of the rights on the intellectual property of others can easily lure civil or criminal sanctions in any part of the world and not only in Hong Kong.

Additionally, the Companies Registry does not confer any intellectual property rights and trademark rights for the registration of a business name in Hong Kong. So, to stay on the safe side, the person needs to check to not name their company to that of a similar company. Startupr can assist you with this, if you need this as a service.

Example for restrictions on the registration of company names

There are many name restrictions in Hong Kong that need to be followed strictly. Most of the penalties have been shared above and the rules for the type of names that would not be accepted. Here you would find the examples of any unacceptable names for the Hong Kong business. The following are some words or names that would need to prior approval of the Companies Registry:

  • Trust
  • Trustee
  • Kaifong
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Levy
  • Tourism Board
  • Tourist Association
  • Savings
  • 受託
  • 信託
  • 旅遊協會
  • 旅遊發展局
  • 商會
  • 街坊
  • 徵費
  • 儲蓄

Situations where a Company Name will NOT be registered

In contemplating if two company names are alike, the Registrar would take in account all the circumstances and parts that suggest the similarity, due which the confusion can occur as well. The factors would be the evidence of uncertainty, the awareness of the names concerned for the public, the nature of the businesses involved, etc.

As per the Registrar, the names of a company can be too alike if:

  • The names are phonetically and / or visually identical or similar.
    There is little disparity in the spelling of the names, and the variation do not make much of a difference. For instance, the grammatical variations like trading or trade, adding “s” or “es” at the end of the
  • word, etc.
  • The name has a word that is a characteristic element unless it is in such a way that minimises the risk of confusion. To define the word characteristic or also called distinctive words, it is the words like “non-dictionary English words,” “unusual combinations of two or more letters as a key part” or even the “English made up words.”

The names of places or any everyday use word would not be categorized under this. The similar business descriptive elements, for example, the use of one name of only a “weak” or general qualification like services, group, holding, international, etc. or even the words like staff agency or employment agency, press or printing, etc., would not be regarded as sufficient distinction.

Examples of the name restrictions in Hong Kong

  • Names that are same like – KWUN TONG ENGINEERING COMPANY LIMITED vs. KWUN TONG ENGINEERING LIMITED, or 發達(貿易)有限公司 vs. 發達貿易有限公司.
  • Phonetically identical names like – LIFECITY LIMITED vs. LYFECITY LIMITED, or ABKEM LIMITED vs. AB-CHEM LIMITED, or 興隆企業有限公司 vs. 興龍企業有限公司.
  • Names where the there is slight difference in spelling that does not mark it as a significant difference like – CONSULAIR LIMITED vs. CONSOLAIR LIMITED, or 美儂有限公司 vs. 美濃有限公司.
  • Grammatical differences that are not notable differences like – ADVANCED TRAVEL LIMITED vs. ADVANCE TRAVEL LIMITED.
  • Names that have the identical distinctive element like –
    – names that are sufficiently qualified – FACTROMATIC PLANT HIRE LIMITED vs. FACTROMATIC COMPUTERS LIMITED.
    – names that are not sufficiently qualified – MECHALA HOLDING LIMITED vs. MECHALA LIMITED, or ODDBODS PRINTING LIMITED vs. ODDBODS PRESS LIMITED, or 禾豐印刷有限公司 vs. 禾豐印務有限公司.
  • Names with expressions and words that are taken as the same like – “and” and “&,” or “Hong Kong,” “Hongkong” and “HK,” or “Far East” and “FE.” Company name examples are – ABC Hongkong Limited vs. ABC HK Limited vs. ABC Hong Kong Limited.
  • If the Registrar is satisfied and there is a use of two interchangeably Chinese characters like – 恆=恒; 峯=峰: 匯=滙.

There are some cases where there are expressions and words in a company name are administered by the other legislation, and the inappropriate use will establish a criminal offense. The examples of these name restrictions in Hong Kong are:

  • Under the Banking Ordinance (Cap. 155), if a person uses “Bank” (銀行) in a company name it is an offense unless there is permission from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
  • Under the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap. 571), no person can utilize the name “Unified Exchange” (聯合交易所) or “Stock Exchange” (證券交易所) or other variations, other than the Exchange Company (交易所). Use of it otherwise is a criminal offense.
  • As per the Professional Accountants Ordinance (Cap. 50), other than the corporate practice, no other company can use the word in its name – the initials “PA,” “CPA,” “CPA (practicing),” or the words “public accountant,” “certified public accountant,” “certified public accountant (practising),” or the characters “審計師,” “核數師,” “註冊核數師,” “會計師,” or “執業會計師.”

Now that you have a good idea about the words that you can use for the name or the phrases, you can decide the name that you want to give the company. Simply type it in the search option on the Startupr website to check if it is in use already or not. You do not need to worry any fees as this service is free to use!

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