Setting up a UK company

When opening a company in the UK, you need to set up a legal entity and familiarise yourself with your intellectual property rights.

How to get started

1. Think about your structure
Choose the right legal entity for your business to be successful in the UK.

2. Get registered and insured
Gather your tax registration and insurance documents.

3. Talk to banks early
Start the process as soon as your entity is formed.

4. Register your seconded employees
Apply for a national insurance number or a unique tax reference.

5. Plan ahead
Establish a calendar of compliance activities for your UK entity.

London is very easy to work in and a very business-friendly city. The process was a lot less complex than we expected. It took just six months from the initial idea to opening the office.
Will Fleming
President and CEO, MotionPoint

Which legal entity

There are various ways to trade in the UK but the most common types for international companies are as a:

UK limited company
A company structure owned by shareholders and run by its directors. Quick and inexpensive to set up, with a corporate tax rate of 19%.

Limited liability partnership
A partnership but the liability of the members is limited. Easy to set up and transparent for tax, this option can be used for an Innovator visa and a Tier 2 visa sponsor.

UK establishment (branch)
The place of business or branch of an overseas company within the UK. Effectively, it’s a direct extension of the overseas company, officially registered at Companies House and the tax authorities to trade.

Get help with setting up your company in London.

Contact us for more information on how to get started.

Intellectual property

There are several forms of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the UK, which can protect a wide variety of different creations including as brand names, logos, inventions, designs, text or images.

The main forms of IPRs in the UK are:

Form of protection Examples of what can be protected Duration 
Registered trademarks* Your brand names, business names, domain names, social media handles, logo and product names (but also, potentially packaging, colours, shapes and the like). 10 years, but can be renewed potentially indefinitely.
Rights in passing-off Your brand names, domain names, social media handles, goodwill and reputation, including packaging. Potentially indefinitely
Registered* and unregistered designs Packaging, the whole or part of a product, 3D shape or configuration, product shapes, graphic designs and surface decoration. Generally 3 to 25 years depending on which form of design.
Copyright and database rights Investment in databases, text (such as product descriptions), images, pictures and drawings (such as design documents, marketing materials and product packaging), films, music and software, consumer and sales details. Generally 70 years from the death of the creator.
Patents* Inventions. Ones which are essentially a business model are harder to protect. 20 years.
Confidential information Any commercially sensitive information such as customer or supplier information, know-how, manufacturing processes and product launches. Potentially indefinitely.

*Registration is required for a right to arise.

Content provided by Moore Kingston Smith, Taylor Wessing and Oury Clark. This information is intended for general guidance only. You should always seek professional advice.

How London & Partners can help

Our team offers free advice to potential investors, from startups to established companies on how to register a company in the UK. We can:

  • Connect you to legal experts specialising in setting up UK entities.
  • Introduce you to intellectual property specialists who can advise you on how to protect your inventions, designs and ideas.
  • Offer advice on setting up in London.

More resources

Contact us

Our team can advise you on every aspect of how to start a business in London, free of charge.