You’ve decided to start a creative business — congratulations! Now comes the fun (and challenging) part of choosing a business name. In creative industries, where a good name and reputation can get you more work, your business name is powerful, acting as a marker of your brand’s identity and the quality of your work. However, it is equally important to protect a business name from being claimed by others. Otherwise, you may be forced to change your name and lose the reputation and identity already established. This article looks at four ways you can best claim and protect a business name.

Choose an Original Name

Before choosing a business name, search to make sure your desired name is not already being used. This way you can be sure that your creative work will be correctly associated with your business, not another with the same name. Your search should include:

  • a business name search through Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Connect, which lists Australian registered companies and businesses;
  • a trade mark search through IP Australia, which lists all registered trademarks and pending trademark applications;
  • an Australian Business Number search through the Australian Business Register, which lists entities who may have similar names and are registered for tax purposes; and
  • your own investigations, including print material (like magazines and newspapers) and online platforms (like domain names and social media sites).

Conducting this type of search can be a time-consuming process. It is a good idea to prepare a list of possible options before you start your search, just in case you discover that one of your preferred names is already in use. Generally, the more unique or inventive the name, the less likely it will already be in use. For example, a theatre company based in Darlinghurst, Sydney uses ‘Griffin’ as a business name, rather than its location. Originality will also make it easier for you to establish a reputation and register the name as a trademark.

Register Your Business Name

Once you have selected your business name and you intend to trade under that business name, you must register it with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The only exception is if you are a sole trader and trade under your own name.

Registration has the useful benefits of cementing your business’ legitimacy and providing an official connection between your business name and business work. It will let others conducting business name searches know that you are already using this business name.

However, registration does not give you any rights in, or ownership of, a business name. It does not stop someone else from registering a similar name.

A business name only identifies your business. To gain exclusive rights to the name, you will need to register it as a trade mark.

Trademark Your Business Name

The most effective way to protect a business name is to register it as a trade mark. A trade mark gives you exclusive legal rights to use your business name in relation to your goods or services or closely related goods and services. This means you can stop others from using that name to conduct their business in the field that you work in. For example, a musical band who has registered their name ‘Humbug’ as a trade mark can prevent another business from using that name in the music industry, but not necessarily in another industry such as costume design. Although it can be an expensive investment, a registered trade mark can build the value of your business, and protect the integrity of your brand and work at the same time.

Claim Your Online Identities

Once you have registered your business name through ASIC, you should claim your business’ online presence. You can do this by using your business name to register:

  • an account on social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter;
  • an account on media sharing websites such as YouTube or Vimeo; and
  • a domain name.

Taking these steps will prevent others from creating accounts under your business name and potentially misleading your consumers. You do not necessarily need to maintain these accounts with content. Simply by claiming these identities, you have eliminated several situations where your business name could have been misappropriated.

Key Takeaways

Your business name is one of your business’ most valuable assets and is worth protecting from misappropriation. This will help ensure the integrity of your brand’s work and reputation. The best way to protect your name is by registering it as a trademark. There are also less expensive alternatives you can choose to solidify the connection between your name and work, such as claiming your business name online.

For more information on how to protect a business name, call LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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