Companies are constantly looking for new opportunities: a new product or service, going international, expansion onto a different market. The trade name you chose for your company may not be suited to your new activities. You can do three things: change your name, add a second trade name, or start a new company for the new activities. This article explains in more detail.
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Adding a trade name
The Act on Trade Names (Handelsnaamwet) allows you to register more than one trade or comapny name for the same business in the Dutch Commercial Register (Handelsregister). So, if for instance you decide to start selling shoes as well as handbags, you could add an extra trade name for the shoes. And if you want to start selling on the French market, you might consider registering a French trade name.
You register an additional trade name by filling out a form. This is the same form you used when registering your company for the first time. It also allows you to report changes and, in this case, additional trade names. Choose the form for your legal structure. Fill in the extra trade names, plus the new activity or activities. After completing the form, you can send it to the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. Don’t forget to include a copy of a valid proof of identity.
Good to know:
- All the rules that apply to choosing your original trade name also apply to any additional trade names you register.
- If you register an additional trade name, it is added to your company registration in the Commercial Register, under the same KVK-number as the original name.
- You have to use the trade name, not just register it. If you don’t, it will not be protected under the trade name act.
- If your company is a private or public limited company (bv or nv), cooperative or mutual insurance company, you must always use your statutory name for any official communications. You may use your new trade name, but it has to be alongside the original one. So, for instance: ‘Jones Chaussures – a Jones Handbags company’.
- If under the new trade name you carry out new activities that are very different from your original activities, the Dutch Tax Administration may require that you use a new VAT number. Always check with them first.
Trade name or trademark?A trade name isn’t the same thing as a trademark. Your trade name is the name you use for your company; a trademark is an IP right you can register for a brand. That could be the name of a product or a service, a logo, or even a colour. Read more about IP rights.
Changing your trade name
You can also decide to change your company name, if you feel that the name you have now doesn’t suit your activities anymore. So, using the handbags and shoes example, you might want to change your name from ‘Jones Handbags’ to ‘Jones Handbags & Shoes’. Or to ‘Jones Accessories’. Be careful not to pick a name that is so vague nobody will know what you’re actually selling or doing. And don’t choose this option if the new product or activity is very different from your original one. The more focus you can put into your trade name, the better.
You can change your company name by filling out the form on the KVK website. This is the same form you used when registering your company for the first time. It also allows you to report changes. Choose the form for your legal structure. Fill in the new trade name, plus the new activity or activities. After completing the form, you can send it to the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. Don’t forget to include a copy of a valid proof of identity.
Starting a new company
Your third option is to start a new company for the new activity. If you want to limit the risk for your existing company, this might be a good option. Any financial problems you have with the new company will not affect the original one. However, starting a new company, with all that entails (separate registration, bookkeeping, communication, premises, etc.) is a time-consuming business. And more expensive than adding or changing a trade name. Also, if your legal structure is a sole proprietorship, you cannot start another one: one person cannot register two sole proprietorships. This has to do with your legal status. As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all company finances and debts. As you are only one person, you cannot be liable for two companies.