Setting up a UK company

When establishing a business in London, you need to set up a legal entity and familiarise yourself with your intellectual property rights (IPL).

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 limited liability company structure owned by shareholders and run by the 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 - members all have to file UK tax returns and pay UK tax on profits derived from UK activities.

UK Establishment (Branch)

A UK establishment is the place of business or branch of an overseas company within the UK. Effectively a direct extension of the overseas company, officially registered at Companies House and the tax authorities to trade. Financial reports of the parent company are likely to be filed in the UK annually.

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 
Registered trade marks* Your brand name, business name, domain names, social media handles, logo and product name
(but also, potentially packaging, colours and shapes).
Rights in passing-off Your brand name, domain names, social media handles, goodwill and reputation, including
Registered* and
unregistered design rights
Packaging, the whole or part of a product, 3D shape or configuration, product shapes and graphic 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.
Patents* Inventions, which have a technical effect. 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.

 *Registration is required in order for a right to arise.

A quick guide to Patent Box

A scheme that allows companies to apply a 10% rate of Corporation Tax to all profits attributable to qualifying patents, whether paid separately as royalties or embedded in the sale price of products.


A broad range of sectors including electronics, defence, pharmaceuticals, life sciences and manufacturing can benefit.


To incentivise companies to retain and commercialise existing patents and to develop new, innovative patented products.

And not forgetting…

The regime also applies to some other IP rights such as plant variety rights, data protection and supplementary protection certificates (SPCs).

Visit the HM Revenue & Customs website to find out more.

Content provided by Oury Clark and Taylor Wessing.

This information is intended for general guidance only. You should always seek professional advice.

How London & Partners can help

London & Partners is the Mayor of London's official business development company. Our expert team offers free advice to potential investors, from start-ups 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

Get in touch

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