Choosing a name for your business isn’t as simple as plucking a name out of a hat. Besides the branding and marketing issues that you should consider when choosing your business name, there are a number legal steps you should take to make sure that you’ve chosen a name that (a) you can legally use and (b) you can prevent others from using. Messing this up at the start can lead to expensive and time consuming fixes down the track!
In short: make sure you take the time to select and register a business name. It’s worth it!
1. Pick an Appropriate Name
There are a few restrictions on the names you can choose for your business. Generally the name should not be misleading, obscene or give rise to obvious confusion. Furthermore, you should pick a name which is going to help you sell your product or services.
2. Business Name Availability
The first step is to search the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) business name register. By searching the register, you can check if someone else is already using your proposed name. Obviously if they are, you need to choose a different name.
3. Trademark Check
You should then check to see if the name is identical or similar to a registered trademark.You can do this using the free IP Australia Trade Mark Check. If someone has trademarked your business name, or a name similar to it, you should steer clear.
4. Domain Name Check
If the name isn’t being used or trademarked, it’s then a good idea to complete a domain name search. This checks whether your business name is being used as a website URL. Although you can run a business without a website, it’s not a great idea in the 21st century! You will want to make sure that the.com or .com.au URL is available, as they’re the two domains which Australian businesses generally use. The best way to check if a given URL is in use is to use the tool on www.auda.org.au.
5. Register a Business Name and Domain Name
Once you’ve completed the above three steps you should get to registering your business name and domain name as soon as possible. You don’t want someone else to pounce whilst you mess around! The process takes about 15/20 minutes and you will need a number of details to complete the application.
Perhaps most importantly, the entity applying for the business name must have an ABN. The entity doesn’t have to be a company, a sole trader can apply for a business name, but the sole trader must have an ABN.
You then need to register your domain name. Obviously you will probably want your domain name to have your business name in the URL. You can register your domain name through a wide variety of online portals – GoDaddy is one such example.
You should now consider protecting your business name by considering trademark registration.