If you are in the process of setting up your business, it is important that you know the difference between business names and trade marks. Although people commonly mistake the two, understanding the difference will assist you in protecting the name that you use to trade. This article will outline the benefits and limitations of both a business name and a trade mark.

What is a business name?

A business name refers to the name that you will use to trade. This is the name that the public uses to identify and differentiate you from other businesses. Businesses register their business name when they first set up their business structure, be it a sole trader, partnership, company or a trust. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is the government body that manages all business name registrations. You will need an Australian Business Number (ABN) or have submitted an application for an ABN to register your business name.

What sort of protection does a business name provide?

You are unable to register a business name that is the same or similar to other registered business names. Searching ASIC’s business name register will help you determine whether a business name is already registered.  The register helps prevent other people registering an existing business name but it is also a good idea to check the Australian Trade Mark On-line Search System (ATMOSS) to determine that there are no existing trade marks for this name.

Although you can register your business name, it does not provide you with legal rights to that name. What this means is that you cannot prevent another party from using your business name – only a trade mark can achieve this.  By checking both ATMOSS and the ASIC business name register, you can confirm whether another business is trading under the same name under which you wish to operate your business.

Why do people register a trade mark?

With many businesses using their brand identity to differentiate themselves from their competitors, it becomes more and more important for a business to protect its name. As a business name does not provide businesses with legal rights to use the name they register, many people decide also to register a trade mark for their business name. A trade mark provides a business with the exclusive right to use their business name. Once you register your trade mark and have the necessary approval, you can stop other businesses from using it.


Registering a trade mark offers the strongest protection to prevent or stop other businesses from using your business name. If you have invested time building your businesses reputation and identity around your business name, it is prudent to ensure that it is protected. A trade mark will protect your business name from other competitors using it and will be especially important if your business name is a particularly unique and differentiating asset.

At LegalVision, we have a team of specialist trade mark lawyers that can assist in registering a trade mark for your business. If you have any questions about whether a trade mark is right for your business, call us on 1300 544 755 and talk to us about how we can help!

Kristine Biason
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