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An important and exciting part of starting your new business is picking a name that your customers will remember. An excellent business name will distinguish your business from competitors and enable you to build a strong reputation in your industry. However, before you start trading under the name you have chosen, it is essential to check whether that name is available. This article outlines when registering a business name is required and the process involved in doing so.

What Is a Business Name?

A business name is a name or title under which a person or entity conducts its business. Unless you are trading under your legal name, you must register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). A legal name is different to a business name and depends on your business structure. The table below provides examples of when you do and do not have to register your business name.

Business Structure

Legal Name

Business Name

Do I have to register my business name?

Sole Trader

Lauren Laurenson

Lauren Laurenson

No

Sole Trader

Phil Phillips

Phil’s Phabulous Pies

Yes

Partnership

Mary Jones and Natalia Smith

Mary Jones and Natalia Smith

No

Partnership

Chris Miller and Andrew Davis

Chris and Andy’s Stunning Beauty

Yes

Company 

Ace Builders Pty Ltd

Ace Builders Pty Ltd

No

Company

Pubs and Bars Sydney Pty Ltd

Tumbleweed Tavern

Yes

Trust

Desk Box Pty Ltd ATF Grey Family Trust

Desk Box Pty Ltd ATF Grey Family Trust

No

Trust

Unique Company Pty Ltd ATF Garcia Family Trust

Little Frame Shop

Yes

‘Business Name’ vs ‘Trading Name’

A ‘trading name’ refers to all unregistered names that businesses were using before the Australian Government introduced the National Business Names Register in 2012. This means that if you began conducting business before 28 May 2012 under a name different to your legal name, you are using a ‘trading name’. As such, you do not have a registered ‘business name’. If you wish to continue using this name, you must register it with ASIC.

The Australian Business Register will continue displaying unregistered trading names until 31 October 2023. Therefore, you have until then to register your trading name with ASIC. Otherwise, ASIC will remove it from the Register, and you will not be able to trade using it.

Choosing a Business Name: The Next Steps

Brainstorming, comparing and finally deciding on a business name is an exciting process. Before settling on your name, make sure to check whether it is an undesirable name and does not contain restricted words or expressions. If it does, you will not be able to use it.

The next step is to check whether your chosen name is available on the ASIC Connect website. Do this by selecting ‘Check business name availability’ in the ‘Search within’ field, typing in your name and pressing ‘Go’. This search will produce one of three results:

  • green – this means the name is available;
  • amber – this means that ASIC will need to assess the name after you apply to have it registered; and
  • red – this means the name is not available.

If your name is not available, you will need to choose another one. Alternatively, you can alter your current choice to be sufficiently different from the name that has already been registered. Following these steps, you can consider registering your business name.

Registering Your Business Name

To register your business name, you must already have an Australian Business Number (ABN). You will need to apply for an ABN if you have not got one already.

You can register your business name in two places. The first is the Australian Government Business Registration Service. This tool is useful as you can apply for other registrations at the same time, such as Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Pay as You Go Withholding (PAYG).

You can also register directly with ASIC through your ASIC Connect account. Once you have logged in, you can register your chosen business name by:

  1. selecting ‘Licences and Registrations’ at the top of the page;
  2. select ‘Business name’ from the drop-down box;
  3. enter your ABN;
  4. enter your proposed business name;
  5. select the registration period – either one or three years;
  6. enter your (or the business name holder’s) details;
  7. enter the address of the proposed business name;
  8. confirm your eligibility to hold a business name – this means you cannot have been disqualified or convicted of certain criminal offences;
  9. review your application – make sure you spell your business name correctly; and
  10. make payment and confirm the transaction.

Trademarking Your Business Name

Registering your business name gives you a high level of protection. However, be aware it does not necessarily prevent other people from trading under your business name. In addition to registering your business name, you should also consider trademarking your business name. This will provide you with additional safeguards and offers more ways of enforcing your rights over that name. A trademark can also be a valuable way of protecting your businesses’ logo if you use one.

Importantly, registering your business name will strongly deter other people from trading under the same name. Any business found to be trading under a business name that they have not registered to their entity on the Australian Business Names Register has committed an offence. Currently, this offence carries a maximum fine of $6,600.

Key Takeaways

Choosing a name for your business is an important and exciting decision. It is best practice to register your business name. You must also check to see whether that name is available to use. The ASIC Connect website is an easy-to-use tool to perform this check. If the name is available, you should register it with ASIC, but you will need to choose another if it is not. 

If you have any questions regarding your business, its name and how to get started, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a ‘business name’ and a ‘trading name’ the same thing?

A trading name refers to unregistered business names that businesses were using before the introduction of the National Business Names Register in 2012. A business name refers to names that a person or entity has registered with ASIC.

How do I register my business name?

Before you can register your business name, you will need an ABN. You can then register your business name in two places. The first is through the Australian Government Business Registration Service, and the second is through your ASIC Connect account.

I have registered my business name. Does that mean other people cannot use it?

Registering your business name provides a high level of protection. If another business is trading under your registered name, they face fines of up to $6,600. However, it does not necessarily provide total protection. It is best practice to also create a trade mark for your business name and business logo if applicable.

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