How do I rename my company?

Company name for sole proprietorships: information and tips

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Many sole proprietorships wonder what you can actually call your company and what business names are allowed. But what exactly does the company name of a sole proprietorship look like? And what is the difference between company, business name and brand? And to what extent are sole proprietorships allowed to use establishment and industry names?

First of all, a distinction must be made between the various individual entrepreneurs; In the case of small businesses, freelancers and registered traders, there are different regulations and specifications for company and business name.


Company name: What exactly is a company name?

A company name is the designation under which a company is entered in the commercial register. Colloquially, a company or business name is often referred to as “company” or “company name”, but from a purely legal point of view, companies without an HRG entry are not a company. “Company names” use sole proprietorships that are not registered in the commercial register in their official business dealings. A “business name” is used by companies for promotional purposes and does not have to meet more formal requirements.


Small businesses: company and business name

Company name

In the case of small businesses not registered in the commercial register, the full first and last name must be mentioned in the company name; it is not permitted to abbreviate the first name. Although the legal template has been omitted, it must be clear from the designation that the company and owner are identical. As a result, a company name without the name of the owner would be inadmissible. However, it is permitted to add a fantasy, industry or subject name, even in combination. Additional industry names that refer to the products or services are also permitted, for example:

  • Floristry Max Mustermann
  • Paula Müller, Rohrfrei pipe cleaning
  • Delicatessen Hans Meier
  • Michaela Musterhausen mail order business
  • Work fashions Jean Schmitz ”
  • Britta Schneider FlugsTransporte
  • Drogerie24 Frank Peters


Business name

In addition to the company name, there is also the so-called business name, which is also embellished with industry or establishment names. This can also be identical to the company name; Sole proprietorships can, however, do without the addition of the name. The business name does not have to be entered in a public register. Since entrepreneurs do not have to enter a name here, they have more leeway when designing the business name:

  • Golden Dragon Inn
  • Boutique La Femme
  • Market drugstore

These establishment or branch names may appear on business cards, in advertising, on shopping bags, etc. without any further additions, and may also be used as a logo on business letters. However, when issuing invoices or similar, the company name must also be given to ensure that outsiders can see who they are dealing with. For companies registered in the commercial register, it is publicly visible who the owner or managing director is.

Business and establishment names must neither be misleading nor give the impression that the company is registered in the commercial register. The same applies to succession additions to corporate succession such as the following, which are also inadmissible are:

  • Mustermann successor
  • Max Mustermann formerly Petra Müller
  • Max Mustermann Inh. Petra Müller

Inadmissible However, there are also designations that indicate a fully commercial dimension, especially local and regional additions:

  • Wiesbaden car dealership
  • Frankfurt textile trade
  • Furniture center
  • Food center

These successor and regional additions are only available to companies registered in the commercial register. However, on correspondence, invoices, receipts, in the online imprint, etc., the company name must be listed with the name of the owner in addition to the industry, factual or imaginary name or establishment name. This also applies to signs at the entrance to the shop.

When using industry and establishment names in the company name or in the business name, the risk of confusion under competition and trademark law must not be forgotten. The name of the company and the business name must not lead to confusion with a company or a protected brand. It is therefore recommended that you check whether this name is already in use before using a business or establishment name. It may also make sense to register the business or company name as a trademark.


The company name for freelancers

As a freelancer, you have almost the same rights and privileges as the small business owner when naming your company and business, however, when specifying your name, it is sufficient to mention your surname. Furthermore, it must be clear from your company name which services you offer, a pure fancy name is not enough here.

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Registered merchants (e. K.) and the company name

The registered merchant must officially register his company name. This is done with the entry in the commercial register. When designing a name, like others, he has freedom and obligations with regard to their business name. In general, there are two important principles: The company name must be suitable for identifying the businessman and also have a distinctive character. Furthermore, the company must not contain any misleading information. Taking these requirements into account, the company name can be formed from three elements:

  • Personal company (information about the owner)
  • Property company (information about the business purpose)
  • Fantasy company (without information)

It is also possible to use these elements in combination. You should keep in mind that companies that are made up of purely descriptive technical or industry terms are often not suitable for labeling. Property companies of this type often do not designate a specific company, but an entire industry (floristry e. K. etc.). For this reason, additional identifiers must be used in order to assign the required distinctive character to branch or specialist companies, for example Mustermann Floristik e .K. or Bloomy Floristik e.K. Signs that cannot be communicated are not suitable for identification (exclamation marks, colons, commas, etc.). Commercial trades are allowed only limited Use terms that imply, for example, a certain market significance, size, performance or an environmental reference or are only available to a certain group of addressees:

  • German, European
  • Bio, eco
  • group
  • Academy, institute
  • Dr., bank

Further impermissible Company names are:

  • Company names that consist exclusively of abbreviations, e.g. JH e. Kfr.
  • Company names that consist of an incomprehensible sequence of letters and / or numbers, e.g. XYZ123 e. Kfm.
  • Company names with a similar sound to an existing one
  • Company names that could lead to confusion or association, e.g. BurgerDing e. K.

Inadmissible are also additions that question the legal form of the company. For example, since the PartGG (Partnership Law) came into force, the addition “partner” may only be used by a partnership (PartG).

The registered businessman is obliged to disclose the liability relationships of his company with the legal form addition in the company. Your company must have the addition e. K., e. Kfr. Or e. Kfm. Included.

In addition, the company chosen must be different from the ones that already exist on site; the clear distinction is checked by the commercial register court. In the case of violations, there is an obstacle to entry, which can lead to loss of time and additional costs. It is therefore recommended to check in advance whether the company name is acceptable.

Registered merchants can also personalize their business name such as small business owners or freelancers.


How can a sole proprietorship protect their company name or business name?

Sole proprietorships should register their company name or business name as a trademark if they want to prevent unauthorized third parties from using them. If your company name is distinctive and there is no risk of confusion with existing trademarks, a trademark application is possible. The name is thus protected against unauthorized use, for example if copycats bring a product similar to yours onto the market and misuse your name for it. Furthermore, as a trademark owner, you are also able to enforce an omission or to demand compensation in the form of “infringer's profit”. In general, if an idea is easy to copy, you should consider applying for a trademark. However, you can also have your name protected if you do not use any additions to your company name (e.g. Max Mustermann e. K.). However, name protection takes a back seat to trademark protection; the name protection is only protected for the respective business area; a registered trademark applies across all areas.

In general, you should refrain from using the designation company, company name, company name or company name as an individual entrepreneur who is not entered in the commercial register. A company only exists if the company is entered in the commercial register.


Conclusion: naming for sole proprietorships

Business naming can be a difficult undertaking. You have to differentiate between company, company and business name. Companies that are not registered in the commercial register, such as small businesses and freelancers, are not considered to be companies and can therefore not operate officially; these are self-employed under their company name, which must consist of the full name of the owner. Companies without an HRG entry can use a business name to give their company an individualized name and so stand out from others. With the business name, small businesses and freelancers have more freedom than your company name allows. Sole proprietorships are also free to have their name, business name or company name protected in order to prevent unauthorized use by third parties.

The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. However, we cannot guarantee that it is correct, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a technical expert in a specific case - we will be happy to put you in touch. assumes no liability for damage caused by errors in the texts.