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A business name is a name under which a person (or a company, incorporated association, etc) trades. Whether or not you need to register a business name is a common question that many people have when starting a business.

If you’re a sole trader or partnership, trading under your own name or names, you don’t need to register a business name. If you’re a sole trader or partnership trading under a different name, then you do need to register a business name.

For example:

Sarah Stork, who runs a runs a pet care business named ‘Sarah Stork’ does not need to register a business name as she is trading under her personal name.

Tyrone Lancaster, who runs a bottle shop called ‘Lancaster Liquors’ will need to register the business name ‘Lancaster Liquors’.

If you operate a company, and are trading under the company’s name, you do not need to register your company name as a business name. However, if your company operates under a different name, then you will need to register that different name as a business name.

In Australia, business names are registered through ASIC.

Is a business name the same as a trade mark?

While a business name may be used as a trade mark, they aren’t quite the same thing. A trade mark is a sign used to distinguish a trader’s goods or services from those of other traders. In many circumstances a business name does function as a trade mark. That is to say a business name may function as a ‘badge of origin’ – telling your customers who made or sold the goods or services they purchased.

A business name does not allow you to stop other people from using that name, or similar names in the course of trade. For this protection you will need to register a trade mark.

Protecting your business name is different to registering it. Business name registration is a legal requirement, and while there is no requirement to protect your name, it is wise to do so. A business name is often a business’ most valuable asset, so taking the right steps to make sure you’re adequately protected is vital. It’s best to speak to a qualified professional, such as a trade marks lawyer or trade marks attorney about protecting your business name.

Protecting your business name

As mentioned above, the best protection of your business name is through registering a trade mark.

While protecting a business name is important, not all trade marks can be registered. Deciding on a business name that you can protect you is an important step when starting your business. 

For more information, check out our other articles on how to choose a good business name and how to protect it.

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