A business name is simply a name or title under which a person or entity conducts a business. In Australia, unless you fall within an exemption, you must register your business name. On 28 May 2012, this register became a national register of business names. The purpose of the register is to provide a way to identify the entity that is carrying on business under a business name.
When do I need to register a business name?
Generally, you will need to register a business name with us if you carry on a business or trade within Australia and you are not trading under your own entity name.
You do not need to register a business name if the entity is, for example:
an individual and the business name is the individual’s name (their first name and surname)
a partnership and the business name consists of all of the partners’ names.
The law does not allow any changes from the business holder’s name if you wish to rely on the above exemptions. For example, if your name is John Smith, and the name of your business is ‘John Smith & Co’, you will need to register the business name ‘John Smith & Co’.
If you are unsure about whether you are exempt from registering a name, or whether you are carrying on a business or trading within Australia, take a look at our Regulatory Guide 235, which gives helpful examples.
A business name does not give you exclusive trading rights over the name
The differences between business names, trademarks, company names and domain names sometimes cause confusion. Business name holders often think that by registering a business name they have protected a brand or trading name – whereas in fact the business names laws that exist today and from 28 May do not offer that type of protection.
The new business names laws have not changed any of the existing law relating to trademarks or to intellectual property in a name. Be aware that registering your business name does not give you ownership of that name. Registering a particular name does not stop another person from registering a similar name nor does it give you the exclusive right to use the name or part of the name. Also, registering a business name will not prevent the name being used by somebody who has registered it as a trademark. This is an important point – and one that every business owner should be aware of. The obligation to register a business name is a legal obligation which is entirely separate to any steps that business owners may take to protect any intellectual property rights in a name or brand, such as registering a trademark.
To assist new business start-ups, IP Australia has developed a new simplified online trademark search, called TM Check, where you can search for existing trademarks – at no cost – to ensure your business name does not infringe on an existing registered trademark.
A domain name gives online businesses a unique electronic address. You can arrange to buy a domain name yourself or through an internet service provider (ISP). To buy a .com.au or .net.au domain name, you must be a commercial entity and possess either an ACN or ABN. For more information on domain name registration, visit www.auda.org.au