The name of the game

In an increasingly competitive world it’s important you select a name for your business that has impact, is memorable and distinguishes your product or service from your competitors.

A name can be a:

It’s important to understand the differences between each – and what each offers in terms of protection, or exclusivity, and how to register those appropriate to your business venture.

Some important facts

A search of the trade mark databases before you register a business name, company name or domain name can help you to avoid potentially costly errors.

For instance, if you inadvertently infringe someone’s trade mark, you could be sued – and required to change your business name and remove all traces of the name from your business, products, labelling, packaging, vehicles, stationery, advertising material, website and uniforms.

Furthermore, when establishing a business, you should not spend money on any of the above items until the name has been registered in case it is unavailable.

What takes precedence?

Registering a business name, company name or domain name does not give you any proprietary right (ownership) to that name. Only a trade mark can give you that protection. The same word(s) can be registered as a business name, company name, domain name and trade mark by different people, so registering a trade mark will afford you the best protection.

How does each name differ?

Business name

Generally, you will need to register a business name with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) if you carry on a business or trade within Australia and you are not trading under your own name.

♦  Learn more about business names at the ASIC website

Company name

Is a name registered under federal Corporations Law administered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). If your company chooses to trade under a name different from its company name, the company must register the trading name as a business name.

♦  Learn more about company names at the ASIC website

Domain name

A domain name is your own unique address on the Internet. It should ideally contain the whole, or a part, of your business name so your customers can find you among all the other websites.

♦  Learn more about registering a domain name

Trade mark

A trade mark is a word, phrase, letter, number, logo, picture, sound, smell, shape, aspect of packaging or a combination of any of these that is used to distinguish the products or services of a trader from other traders. The registered owner of the trade mark has a right to exclusive use of the trade mark throughout Australia for products or services for which it is registered.

♦  Learn more about trade marks at the IP Australia website

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Searches

It’s always wise to search the trade mark databases before you register a business name, company name or domain name.

Learn more about options for searching names at IP Australia

Basic search services are available at IP Australia

The Australian Trade Mark On-line Search System (ATMOSS TM Check) is an easy to use search tool designed for business name applicants to identify pending and registered trade marks which may be similar or identical to their proposed business name.

Professional search services available

Professional searches are also available from patent and trade mark attorneys, legal practitioners and search firms. The IP Australia website provides links to the relevant databases of organisations.

Search ASIC’s registers

It’s also wise to search ASIC’s registers before you decide on a business or company name. ASIC offers an extensive database of Australian company names and business names of each state and territory. The index provides some basic free information on each organisation. Further information may be obtained for a fee.

If the trade mark is available...

Consider applying for a trade mark, because holding the registered trade mark will give you precedence over other businesses and provide you with protection and security.

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Related Information
Toolkit

Top Tips

  1. This is an SBDC small business brief – a summary of essential information about a popular business topic.

    There is a series of small business briefs and also step-by-step business guides that make it easier to deal with the complexity of running a small business.

  2. It’s always wise to search the trade mark databases before you register a business name, company name or domain name.

  3. Professional searches are also available from patent and trade mark attorneys, legal practitioners and search firms. The IP Australia website provides links to the relevant databases of organisations.

  4. Registering a business name, company name or domain name does not give you any proprietary right (ownership) to that name. Only a trade mark can give you that protection.

  5. Learn more about domain names at the Australian Digital Business website

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