When Are You Required to Register Your Business Name?
You are obligated to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), so long as you:
- Include other words in your business name besides your own. For example, Graham Jones Pool Cleaning or Henderson & Sons would both require registration.
- Are trading under a name that is anything but your own
- If you are operating a company (including legalities Pty Ltd) and you want to trade under a name that is not your company name.
The only exemption to registration is if you are trading under your own name: that being your given name or initials, followed by your surname.
You are not permitted to use an unregistered business name, or a name that is not either your own name, or your corporation’s name.
The Rights of a Registered Business Name Owner
Business name registration is not the same as trademark registration, and does not come with the same rights and powers. If you want to reserve your business name for your own exclusive use, you must apply separately for trademark registration, as the searches, applications, and application processes are entirely different from one another. Business name registration does not:
- Grant you exclusive rights over the business name
- Stop others from registering a confusingly similar name
- Stop another party from using your business name as a trademark
- Stop a pre-existing trademark holder from using your business name (in fact, you will likely be infringing on their rights)
- Prevent another party taking legal action against you if you infringe on their rights
Choosing Your Business Name
A uniquely identifiable business name, along with the goodwill that comes with the name, is an important asset to have when you’re dealing with consumers, lenders, and competitors. It is worth investing time in coming up with a clever business name because this name could in fact add value to your business. Your business name is central to both your image and branding.
Your business name must reflect the nature of your business. It should help consumers understand what types of goods and services you provide.
Make sure that your business name or brand name is:
- Short and sweet
- Simple to pronounce and spell
- Not misleading
When you’re trading internationally, check the appropriateness of your business name in other cultures.
Applying for Registration
Once you have decided on a name for your business, you should contact ASIC to determine whether your business name is still available for registration, and to register your business name.
The application can be done online. You will need to provide the following information:
- Your Australian Business Number (ABN) or, in the least, an ABN application reference number
- Your preferred business name and the time period you want to register for, be that either one year or three.
- The location or locations of your business
- The full names and the addresses of each owner
Registering your business name is affordable. It will cost you approx. $35 to register for one year, upwards of $76 for three years. Once you have registered, you are required to meet a number of legal obligations. If you fail to comply with these obligations, you risk being fined or losing your trade name.
Display your business name or your brand name: It is essential that you display your business name outside of all of your business locations so long as the business is open to the public.
Additionally, all of your correspondence and documents need be monogrammed with your business name. These documents include letters, invoices, statements, publications, notices, orders, and receipts.
Once your business name is registered, you will receive a record of this. It is recommended that you display this record in your place of business, although this is not enforced.
Renew your registration: In order to use the same business name indefinitely, you are required to renew your registration. If you neglect to renew your registration, your business name is removed from the ASIC register and another party can apply to register it as their own. If this happens, you will be required to cease operating under that business name.
Update your details: All changes to business ownership need be reported to ASIC within 28 days of occurring, including the names of owners or a change in address. Similarly, if you decide to change your business name or if you find that you have misspelled the name in your application, contact ASIC.
Shutting down your business: If you want to cease trading, you need to send a request to ASIC at least 28 days before you close down your business. ASIC will subsequently notify all of the other people recorded on your business name’s register, along with the business name holder. This check is performed to stop unlawful attempts to cancel out a business name.
If you plan to close your business, you must send ASIC a request to cancel your business name at least 28 days beforehand. ASIC will then notify the business name holder (and any other people recorded in the business names register). This prevents unauthorised attempts to cancel a business name.
Trademarking Your Business Name
When you’re choosing your business name, you might want to choose something that will also be suitable for trademark registration. If you register your business name as a trademark as well as a trade name, you can protect your identity from competitors. Trademark registration gives you unique and exclusive rights to your business name, including singular ownership and protection against unlawful usage.