Guidelines for Singapore company name approval

This article describes guidelines for choosing a name for your Singapore company, searching name availability, and securing approval for your preferred company name.

Introduction

С hoosing a name for your company that is both unique and appropriate for your organization is an important task because it provides the first impression of your business to your customers and helps differentiate your company from its competitors. Giving it extra thought may make all the difference as your company grows.

When incorporating a company in Singapore, you must first apply and obtain approval for the name of your company from the company registrar ACRA. It is a simple procedure, and if a company name is selected according to the ACRA’s rules, it may be approved in less than an hour.

Below we will identify the main rules and procedures to register a company name in Singapore, including how to check the availability of your desired company name and how to change it after the company’s registration.

The article covers the following topics:

Company name guidelines from ACRA

The first step in choosing a company name is to check whether the desired company name is in compliance with ACRA’s guidelines and the rules of the Companies Act. ACRA is the authorized body for approval of company names in Singapore. ACRA’s guidelines offer an insight into the authority’s approach in dealing with registration of company names.

If you do not want your name application to be challenged, consider the following when choosing a name for your Singapore entity:

  • The proposed name should be acceptable to public policy and not offensive to any friendly state, or religion, or any segment of the local community in Singapore.
  • A unique name is always the best choice. Nevertheless, it is possible to register a name that is similar but not identical to the business name of another company, corporation, limited liability partnership, variable capital company, or business, OR to another previously reserved business name. A company name can not be similar to that of a government body.

The reviewer will apply a legal test to determine whether the proposed company name so closely resembles another already registered business name as to be likely to be mistaken for it. To be rejected on these grounds, there must be a very close resemblance between the two business names so that general public it’s likely to be confused with two names.

Some words, expressions, and symbols that should be excluded while determining whether two names are identical include the following:

    • “The”, where it is the first word of the name;
    • “Berhad” or “Bhd”; “Limited” or “Ltd”; “Limited Liability Partnership” or “LLP”; “Limited Partnership” or “LP”; “Private” or “Pte”; “Public Accounting Corporation” or “PAC”; “Sendirian” or “Sdn”; “Asia”;  “Asia Pacific”; “Associates”; “company” or “and company”; “corporation”;  “Group”;  “Holding” or “Holdings”; “Incorporated”; “International”; “Partner” or “Partners”; “Partnership” or “Partnerships”;  “Singapore”; “South Asia”; “South East Asia”; “Trading”; “Worldwide”; “.co”;  “.com”; “.edu”; “.gov”; “.net”; “.org”; “.sg”, if these words, or expressions appear at the end of the name;
    • Any word or expression which the Registrar considers to be a representation of any of the mentioned-above words or expressions;
    • The plural version of any name;
    • The type and case of letters, spacing between letters and punctuation marks;
    • The symbol “&”, as it is deemed to have the same meaning as the word “and”.
    • The proposed company name should not be the one that Minister of Finance has deemed unavailable for registration (i.e. “Temasek”).
    • It is important that the proposed company name must be used for lawful business purposes. It should not be detrimental to public peace or good order, or contrary to national security or interest.
    • The name must not infringe on any intellectual property rights under the Trade Marks Act.

    Examples of identical names

    • ABC Company Pte Ltd and ABC Corporation Pte Ltd
    • ABC International Pte Ltd and ABC Pte Ltd
    • ABC Pte Ltd and ABC
    • The ABC Pte Ltd and ABC Pte Ltd
    • ABC Pte Ltd and ABC LLP

    Please note that ACRA’s guidelines provide an opportunity to submit a name complaint application to the Registrar to direct a business entity to change its business name. So, if by any chance your company was registered by violating any of the above-mentioned ACRA rules, any interested party can lodge a complaint against your company within 12 months from the date when your company name was registered.

    The Registrar may take into account the following considerations while deciding whether you should be obliged to change your company name:

    • Whether the business name closely resembles the complaining business name;
    • Whether the companies’ business activities are in the same or similar fields;
    • Whether there is any financial detriment caused to the complaining party from the use of its business name;
    • Whether actual evidence of confusion in mistaking a business name is provided to the Registrar (e.g. documentary evidence such as emails, letters from customers or members of the public showing that such confusion has occurred).

    NOTE: A mere similarity between two business names alone is not sufficient grounds for the Registrar to accept a name complaint application.

    Checking for availability of a company name in Singapore

    Once you have reviewed ACRA’s guidelines and decided on a name for your Singapore-based business, you should check whether your name is available. You can search via the BizFile portal, or you can check using our company name search tool. You should type in the full name you would like to check in the search bar of either of these tools, then click the “Search Name” button.

    To maximize the result of your name search, check for:

    • Company names with similar pronunciations;
    • Variations of the proposed name (especially useful for names with initials);
    • Similar company names, but in different sequence or name format;
    • Words with similar meanings;
    • Similar names dealing with a similar trade, or in a similar industry.

    The search will provide you a list of company names that may be similar to your desired name. If your desired company name has already been registered, you should consider other names or add words to differentiate your proposed name from the registered names. However, remember that some words will not qualify as sufficiently different; ACRA will disregard these words while assessing whether a name is identical to another entity registered with ACRA or not.

    Tips for successful approval of your company name

    Before submitting the name application for official approval, consider the following:

    • Follow ACRA’s guidelines and avoid choosing names that are vulgar or offensive, or bear similarity to government bodies.
    • Note that use of some ordinary words such as “bank”, “insurance”, “finance”, “school”, “media”, or “broker” may trigger additional caution from governmental bodies, as you may be required to obtain certain permission or a license before proceeding with company incorporation. Therefore, the request may be referred to the relevant regulatory authority, which can delay the name approval process by a few weeks. So be prudent and add such terms to your company name only if they are necessary. To check whether your business may require an additional license or permit, refer to this website.
    • Once you have come up with a suitable and appropriate name for your business, conduct a thorough check for any identical company name via a company name search tool. This will help avoid the risk of future complaints against your company name.
    • If you have no luck with the search, and your proposed company name is already reserved or registered, add some words to differentiate your proposed name from the registered entity. But remember which words are disregarded in ACRA’s determination of whether the names are identical.
    • Reserve a name with ACRA to be sure that your chosen company name will not be taken by another company.
    • Adhere to the timelines — incorporate your Singapore company within 120 days from the name reservation date. If you miss the deadline, the reserved company name will be released.

      Procedure for company name approval

      Name approval application is filed online with the Singapore company registrar ACRA. Provided that the name for your new Singapore company is in line with ACRA’s guidelines, your name application will be approved quickly, i.e. in less than an hour. Some name applications may be referred to the Referral Authorities for approval. In this case, the processing time may be between 14 and 60 days.

      During the name application process, you will be required to specify the primary and secondary activities of your business; you will also have to choose the most appropriate Singapore Standard Industrial Classification (SSIC) code that corresponds to your business activity. Refer to our guide titled choosing an SSIC code for more details.

      Once approved, the company name is reserved for up to 120 days. If you do not incorporate the company within this period, the name reservation will expire. Your Singapore company can be registered immediately after the name is approved.

      Changing the name of an existing company

      It's possible to change the name of any existing Singapore company. Although the regulatory procedure is fairly straightforward, this decision should not be taken lightly because you might already have a well established brand under the existing name. Moreover, after changing the name, you will have a time-consuming task of updating your website, email systems, marketing/sales/operational collateral, notifying banks, customers, suppliers, and so on.

      The process of changing the name of a Singapore company is as below:

      1. Obtain approval for the new name.
      2. Prepare the company name change resolution.
      3. Arrange for a general meeting and inform company shareholders about the date and reason for the meeting.
      4. To change the company name, at least 75% of shareholders with voting rights must agree to the resolution.
      5. Once the resolution passes, you must notify ACRA within 14 days. You can submit a copy of the Notice of Resolution online via the BizFile portal.
      6. ACRA will issue a Notice of Incorporation under the new company name. Note that the change will be effective from the date of notice issuance.

      You can find more detailed information on the process of a company name change via BizFile in this ACRA step-by-step guide.

      Final takeaway

      Singapore companies cannot be incorporated without having their name registered with ACRA first. Before submitting a name application, it is very important to do conduct careful due diligence to reduce the risk of rejection or a subsequent name complaint being filed against your company name. It is best to choose a unique name and reserve it as soon as possible, so you can be sure your desired name will not be reserved by someone else.

      When you engage our incorporation services, we will automatically handle the company name approval task as part of incorporating your company. You will just need to inform us of your preferred company names. Contact us if you are planning to incorporate a Singapore company.

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