If you set up a company in the Netherlands, you must choose a company name (trade name). The company name must meet the conditions of the Trade Name Act (Handelsnaamwet). This basically means that you have to choose a name that is unique in the sector and region in which you operate. You should actively use your company name in order to be protected by the Trade Name Act. You can do this for instance by displaying the name on your website, your building, or your communication.
You have to submit the company name when registering with the Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel, KVK). They will pass on your details to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst).
If you wish to use your company name as a trademark, you must register your company name at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP).
Rules for your company name (trade name)
- Your company name may not be the same as, or similar to that of another company. You can check if a company name is already in use by searching the Business Register (in Dutch).
- You cannot incorporate a brand name used by another company or a personal name other than yours.
- Your company name should not be misleading to customers or suppliers. This means your company name should not be similar to a company that offers the same products or services in the same area.
- The name you choose should not be incorrect: for example, as a sole proprietor, you cannot name your business with an addition such as '& partners' or '& co'. Your company name should not give the wrong impression as to what your business does. This also means you cannot pretend to have a legal structure that your business does not have. For instance, you cannot use the term 'foundation' in your name if your company is not legally a foundation.
- You may not use another person’s name in your company name. You may only use your own personal name.
If you use a company name that does not comply with the rules under the Trade Name Act, you may be fined.
What to do if company names are similar?
Do you think another company's name is misleading or confusing with regard to your own company name? You can demand the other company to change its name. To do so you need to start proceedings at your local district court (in Dutch). You can no longer make a request for a national company name investigation to KVK.
If you wish to change the name of your company or if you wish to add an additional company name, you should pass this information on to KVK. You can use the change form for submitting changes to your business details. As with the first-time registration, in most cases KVK will pass on the information about the name change to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.