Naming your business in Singapore is a bit more complex than just choosing a catchy moniker and starting your branding process. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) in Singapore has some very specific rules governing your business name, and it has the authority to disallow names that don’t meet its requirements. Take a look at guidelines that can help you name your Singapore business appropriately.
Choose a Unique Business Name
The Singapore Companies Act and Business Registration Act mandates that your company name isn’t identical to that of another company in any way. For example, imagine you want to open an engineering firm called “Brilliant Design.” Those two words aren’t the only ones that matter when the ACRA name registrar reviews your application. If any company exists with names such as The Brilliant Design, Brilliant Design Ltd., Brilliant Design Company, Singapore Brilliant Design, Brilliant Design Asia, or Brilliant Design International, among others, your name application will be denied.
In addition, watch out for synonyms when choosing your name. For example, Brilliant Construction is considered identical to Brilliant Building, Brilliant Investment is identical to Brilliant Holding, and Brilliant Movers is identical to Brilliant Transports. Remember, too, that word similarity matters even when word order changes. So Brilliant Design and Construction is considered the same name as Brilliant Construction and Design.
If the name registrar considers your name identical to an existing company name, it may disallow your name choice or refer your case to mediation. Consider using a name search company to ensure you don’t miss any of the nuances the registrar typically looks for.
Also, ACRA’s BizFile application automatically disallows names that are deemed undesirable. These names typically refer to religion in some way or are considered obscene or vulgar, though.
Business Names That Require Approval
If you’re in one of several specific fields, expect to have your business name proposal referred to regulatory authorities in that field. Fields where referral is required include:
- Architecture: You must be a registered architect to use the word “architect” in your business name, which is subject to approval by the Board of Architects Singapore.
- Real estate: Use of the phrase “real estate agent/agency” or changes of real estate agency names must be approved by the Council for Estate Agencies.
- Commodities and futures trading: Many specific words and phrases require approval by Enterprise Singapore.
- Islam-related activities: Majlis Ugama Islam of Singapore must approve use of the words “Islam,” “Muslim,” and “halal.”
- Defense industry: The Ministry of Defense must approve use of the words “military” and “defense.”
- Education: The name of all private academic schools must be approved by the Ministry of Education, while nonacademic schools (driving, sports, etc.) may not use words such as “institution,” “academy,” “university,” and the like.
- Law: Any business using law-related words such as “law,” “legal,” “counsel,” and the like must be a law practice, and its name is referred to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority for approval.
- Banking: Any company whose activities are governed by the Banking Act, the Finance Companies Act, or the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Act must have their name approved by the MAS.
Approval by these regulatory authorities typically takes two weeks to two months. When you plan your company’s launch, incorporate that timeframe and the need for regulatory approval into your timetable for choosing a company name.
Even though, there are rules to follow, choosing your business name doesn’t have to be difficult. Consider brainstorming several different options. Then, review the specifics to see which, if any, are options that would be approved.