- Do you need to register your business name?
- A business name is the name, or title, under which you trade. Consumers identify your products and services by your business name, and can even form an emotional attachment to your brand.
- Similarly, your business name differentiates you from your competition within the marketplace.
- Your business name, much like your other intellectual property, is one of your most valuable assets.
If you are operating a business under your name, or your partner’s name, you do not need to register your business name. You are required to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) if:
- You include additional words along with your name, such as Robert Common & Sons or Patrick Smith’s Boat Hire.
- You are currently trading under a business name that is not your own name.
- You are currently trading as a company (Pty Ltd) and you want to trade under a name that is not your present company’s name.
It Is Essential to Register Your Business Name
It is essential that you register your business name: registration ensures that you do not accidentally use the same name as another registered trader, company, or corporation. It also identifies you to the consumer as a unique trader, rather than a trader who is affiliated with another company or corporation. If you register your business name it also allows you to open a bank account under your business name.
If you register your business name it does not grant you the same rights to exclusivity as trademarking it. You can only gain these rights by applying for trademark registration. As the owner of a registered business name, you are not protected against infringement.
Business Name vs. Company Name
A business name is different from a company name. Your business name ascertains the trader, or company, behind the trading name to consumers. A company is not directly linked to its directors and shareholders; rather, it is a separate legal entity. So it is important to register your business name.
Company name registration is, however, conducted for similar reasons as business name registration. It prevents two identical company names from being registered within the same region. ASIC controls the registration of both company and business name registration.
Before You Register Your Business Name
Before you register your business name, you need to make two important decisions: which entity will hold the business name, and what the name will be. There are a number of different types of entities which may hold a business name:
- A sole trader or other individual
- An incorporated company (holds an ACN), an Australian registered body (holds an ARBN), or another incorporated entity (has neither an ACN nor a ARBN)
- An unincorporated entity such as a trust or superannuation fund or an association
- A partnership or a joint venue partnership
- A joint venue
In order to register your business name, no matter the entity, you require an ABN (Australian Business Number) or at least an ABN application reference number. Some exemptions apply.
Be sure to make the following checks before you register your business name:
- Ensure that your name is not identical or similar to a registered trademark. You can perform your own cursory check, or seek the advice of a trademark professional for an in-depth search. This check could prevent you from incurring damage should a registered trademark holder sue you for infringement.
- Check that your business name is available as a domain name, should you want to register a domain name as well.
- Ensure that any state or territory licenses you might need to use a particular name, or conduct a specific business within your Australian state or territory.
Choosing Your Business Name to Register
Before you attempt to register your business name, you should check to see if your desired name is available for registration. You can do this by performing a check name availability search that compares your desired name against all other registered business names, or at least those government bodies that have registered with ASIC. As with trademarks, the most unique name is often the most successful in registration, and distinguishable to the consumer.
Your Business Name Registration Rights
Business name registration does not grant you the same rights as trademark registration. When you register your business name, you do not gain ownership of that name or the exclusive use of that name. Registering your business name:
- Prevents another business from registering an identical name, but not a similar name
- Does not protect your business name from being registered as a trademark by another party
- Will not prevent the use of that name by someone who has already registered it as a trademark
- Does not protect you against legal action should the name of your business infringe on the rights of another party. You cannot sue a trademark holder with an identical or similar name, but they can sue you.
You have an obligation to register your trademark with ASIC, but this obligation does not involve the same process that trademark registration does.
Register Your Business Name
After you have registered your business name, your registration will be in effect for a period of either 1 or 3 years. You can choose the registration term on your application. Your registration comes with a set of legal obligations, including:
- Displaying the name of your business
- Renewing your registration annually or tri-annually
- Informing ASIC of changes to your registration details within 28 days of the change occurring. This includes your decision to cease trading under that business name.
Once you register your business name, you gain access to ASIC’s business name services. These services include registration renewal, business name cancellation, and updates to registration details.
Renewing Your Business Name
When your business name registration is set to expire, you will receive a renewal notice from ASIC, either by email or by mail sent to the address for service of documents. You will receive your notice of renewal within two months of the expiry date.
Registering your business name is inexpensive: it will cost you $33 for one year, or $76 for three.