What rules are in place for choosing your company name in the UAE?

12 July 2018 Category :

Your company’s name is a powerful thing. By choosing a title which resonates with your customers, you develop a memorable brand, meaning people are more likely to choose your offering.

In the book Brand Power, Paul Stobart (the director of Interbrand Group, a branding consultancy) explains that companies that understand the power of brands can “increase market share in existing markets…expand into new markets…and increase returns to shareholders”. Choose the right name, and you potentially give your business an edge over the competition.

However, as in most countries, the UAE does not allow you to name your company anything you want. While the restrictions are relatively relaxed and there’s a certain amount of common sense in what names you cannot choose, it’s sensible to get acquainted with the rules before you invest time and energy into naming your business.

Use the following guide as a checklist to ensure the name you’ve hit on will be permitted by the authorities.

Looking for tips on choosing a name? Read this article for inspiration.

Overview of business name rules in the UAE

Generally speaking, the rules around business names in the UAE are fairly straightforward and not unusual. You can’t, for instance, give your brand the same or very similar name as an internationally-recognised business (KFC, Calvin Klein, Microsoft, etc.), contain offensive language or use God’s name (a full overview of restrictions is listed below).

UAE-C

It’s also important to understand that there are slight variations on the rules depending on whether you set up your business offshore, on the mainland or in one if the UAE’s free zones. Offshore businesses are perhaps most liberal in terms of names, followed by free zones – and the mainland is perhaps most restrictive. Depending on where you set up your UAE business, it will be worth checking with the relevant authorities for a list of restrictions.

It’s also important to note that if you wish to append information on the legal structure of your business – such as LLC or PLC – this must be a true description of what you do. For instance, a sole proprietor cannot add ‘LLC’ to the end of their business name.

Ensuring you comply with all these rules is sensible – not only because your application will be rejected if the name is not permitted, but because you can receive a fine if your business name is not being used correctly.

Ensuring you comply with all these rules is sensible – not only because your application will be rejected if the name is not permitted, but because you can receive a fine if your business name is not being used correctly.

Checklist of business name rules in the UAE

Use the following checklist to ensure the name you hope to use is legitimate in the UAE:

  • Does your business name reflect your company’s primary activity? For instance, say you run a fruit import business, it would make sense to choose a name which includes some reference to fruit. Of course, not all names need to be literally related to the activity, but it is essential that they do not contradict what the business is about.
  • Is your business name already protected by copyright? Use the internet to check that your company name has not already been taken by a similar business, in the UAE or elsewhere.
  • Don’t be tempted to use the location of your business in your trade name. Words like UAE, Emirates, Dubai and other cities, districts and UAE airport codes are all restricted. The same goes for names of continents, countries, and cities. However, nationalities can be used in the company name; i.e. ‘European’, ‘African’, ‘Italian’ etc. Similarly, your trade name cannot start with ‘International’, ‘Middle East’, ‘Global’ etc. Nor can one of these words be translated.
  • Unsurprisingly, your trade name cannot use obscene or indecent words, and should not be offensive to the general public – even if it is a person’s name. For a simple test, check with any Arabic-speaking friends to ensure that the name doesn’t have any unintended meanings
  • Your business name should not include God’s name, or any of his divine attributes – either in English or Arabic; i.e. Al Qader, Al Aleem, Al Razzaq, etc.
  • Your business name cannot be similar to any government organisation names or their abbreviations.
  • Your company’s name will not be granted if it is similar to another company in the UAE that performs similar activities. (For instance, another business set-up company in the UAE could not name itself ‘Virtual Zone’, as this would be too similar to our company name Virtuzone)
  • Again, this is common sense but the name must not contain any indication of global political organizations as well as religious or sectarian groups – i.e. FBI, Vatican, UN etc.
  • The name should not fully or partially contain words used by global or local brands and government projects – i.e. Toyota, Emaar, KFC etc.

Industry-specific notes on trade name restrictions in the UAE

  • If you are running a trading business, the word ‘commodities’ can only be used if the company trades in more than one commodity or practices general trading on their business licence
  • The terms “ME” or “CO” are not allowed for individually owned companies unless they come as part of a word; i.e. “LCME Trading DMCC”, “ATCO Services DMCC”… etc.
  • Some words will require a specific approval to proceed with the company name reservation process. For instance, the word ‘Capital’ requires approval from the Central Bank, ‘FX’ requires approval from DGCX, ‘school’ requires approval from the ministry of education.

Some words will require a specific approval to proceed with the company name reservation process.

First names and translations

  • Individual first names of Arabic origin can be used if the name belongs to one of the proposed shareholders. Family names can only be used if the first name is included and must be a name of one of the proposed shareholders.
  • Your company’s name must be phonetically translated – not literally.

Next steps

Once you’ve hit on a company name that you love and checked it off against the list above, your next step is to register it. Learn about the process of registering your company name here, or contact us today if you have any queries about what is and isn’t allowed.

Setting up your own business has never been easier. Virtuzone takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to info@vz.ae, or click here.

 

Related Posts

About the author: Olga Melnik, Head of Business Development, Virtuzone.
About the author: Olga Melnik, Head of Business Development, Virtuzone.

Having spent the past seven years working in the field of legal company incorporation, Olga now works closely with entrepreneurs both locally and internationally in assisting them with their UAE company setup requirements. This includes both free zone and onshore in Dubai and other emirates across the UAE. Olga always advises each of her clients on the best legal setup for their particular needs, and in so doing she supports across the entire range of company setup, from legal translation to document certification to management of the entire communication and legalities with the local UAE company setup authorities. Olga was born and raised in the Ukraine and has a degree in Business Administration and International Law.