Business name availability tests

The Business Names Registration Act 2011 (the Act) outlines the circumstances under which a business name is available to an entity.

The Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015 specifies the rules for determining whether a business name is available for registration.

When testing business name availability, we apply a series of automated tests to assist us in assessing that it:

  • is not already registered,
  • is not identical or nearly identical to a name already registered to another entity, and
  • does not include words or phrases that are restricted, offensive or could imply a connection to a government or similar organisation.

A breakdown of these tests is provided below.

Invalid characters

Acceptable characters include all numbers, upper and lower-case letters as well as the prescribed special characters below.

Table 1: Valid Character Set

Character
Character
Character
Character
space
8
Q
l
!
9
R
m
"
:
S
n
#
;
T
o
$
=
U
p
%
?
V
q
&
@
W
r
'
A
X
s
(
B
Y
t
)
C
Z
u
*
D
\
v
,
E
_
w
-
F
a
x
.
G
b
y
/
H
c
z
0
I
d
{
1
J
e
|
2
K
f
}
3
L
g
4
M
h
5
N
i
6
O
j
7
P
k

Undesirable words or expressions

Your proposed business name will be checked for any words or expressions which:

  • are likely to be offensive to members of the public or any section of the public, or
  • are misleading in that they suggest a connection with a prescribed entity that does not exist.

For example, the name 'Department of Finance Money Exchange' would be refused as this suggests a connection to the Commonwealth Department of Finance.

For more information, see our Guidelines for Ministerial consent - Undesirable Names page.

Restricted words or expressions

Your proposed business name will be checked for any restricted words or expressions. If one has been identified, you will require Ministerial consent to register the name.

In addition to this, if a word or expression has been found to have the same or a similar meaning to a restricted word or expression — it may also require Ministerial consent to register the name.

For example, the name 'Online charity auctions' would require Ministerial consent because it contains the restricted word 'Charity'.

On 20 July 2015 the Treasury approved an update to the Guidelines for Ministerial consent for business names under the Act.

For more information, see our Guidelines for Ministerial consent - Restricted Words and Expressions page.

Name already used by another entity

Your proposed business name will be checked to ensure that it (or a similar name) is not already registered to another entity.

Name held for transfer

Your proposed business name will be checked against our list of business names that are held and in the process of being transferred from an existing business name holder to a new business name holder.

If you are to be the new business name holder, you can apply to register the business name by using the consent to transfer number the current holder has provided you.

Identical names

Your proposed business name will be checked to ensure it is not already registered or reserved to another body under the Corporations Act 2001 for another body.

The identical match is assessed after the following matters are disregarded.

See Part 1 of the Schedule 6 of the Corporations Regulations 2001.

If the company or business name contains... then...
A AN or THE disregard these words (only if the first word)
PROPRIETARY, PTY, LIMITED, LTD, NO LIABILITY, NL disregard these words (in final position only)
a word in plural form convert plural to singular form (so they are equivalent to singular form)

Examples:

  • CHILDREN to CHILD.
  • BATTERIES to BATTERY.
  • CARS to CAR.
If the company or business name contains... then...
COMPANY, COY, CO treat these words as equivalent to each other.
NUMBER, NO treat these words as equivalent to each other.
AND, & treat these words as equivalent to each other.
INCORPORATED, INC treat these words as equivalent to each other.
CORPORATION, CORP treat these words as equivalent to each other.
AUSTRALIAN COMPANY NUMBER, ACN treat these words as equivalent to each other.
AUST, AUSTRALIAN treat these words as equivalent to each other.

Differences relating to the size of characters, the type and case of letters, any accents, spacing between characters and punctuation marks disregard.

Punctuation marks include ! ( ) _ - { } : ; " ' ? , . / \ |

Identical business names and other lists

Your proposed business name will be checked to ensure it is not already registered or reserved on other notified lists, such as a list of Government body names.

An identical match is assessed after the following matters are disregarded.

See section 5 of the Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015.

If the proposed business name OR the name against which it is being checked contains... then...
domain extension and host name elements the domain extension and host name elements are disregarded (including where additional spacing is used). Examples include - WWW, BIZ, COM, NET, ORG, CO, AU, NZ, UK

Examples of names considered to contain domain name elements:

  • FROSTYICECREAM COM AU becomes frostyicecream
  • WWW.WRITEYOURWILL.COM becomes writeyourwill
  • FREZNO.COM becomes frezno
  • E-BUY.CO.UK becomes e-buy
If the company or business name contains... then...
A AN or THE disregard these words (unless it is the whole name)
ASSOCIATION, CO-OPERATIVE, INCORPORATED, LIMITED, LTD, NO LIABILITY, NL , PROPRIETARY, PTY disregard these words/legal elements (in one or both names)word in plural formconvert plural to singular form (so they are equivalent to singular form).

  Examples:

  • CHILDREN to CHILD,
  • BATTERIES to BATTERY
  • CARS to CAR

differences relating to the size of characters, the type and case of letters, any accents, spacing between characters and punctuation marksdisregard. Punctuation marks include ! ( ) _ - { } : ; " ' ? , . / \ |

words in a different order disregard.

For disregarding the order of words, each of the following is to be treated as a word:

  • a character separated by spaces
  • a group of characters separated by spaces
  • an abbreviation, or
  • an acronym.

Business names registered to another body

Your proposed business name will be checked to ensure that it (or a similar name) is not already being used by another entity.

This includes all registered or held business names passed to us from a State or Territory register on commencement of the national business name service.

Names registered to another body on a state or territory register

This test is for an identical match against names registered to another body on a notified State or Territory register.

See Schedule 1 of the Business Names Registration Act 2011.

Depending on the State or Territory, notified registers generally include - Cooperatives, Incorporated Associations, Limited and/or Incorporated Limited Partnerships.

Business names held subject to finalisation of an activity

Your proposed business name will be checked against our list of held business names. Business names may be held if we are waiting for:

  • payment. Business name owners have 10 business days to pay for their business name. The name will be held during this period.
  • confirmation of an Australian Business Number.

Business names are also held for a period of time after they are cancelled. If the business name was cancelled by:

  • The owner, it will be held for four months after cancellation is complete. For example, a business name cancelled on 4 January 2016 will not be available for registration until 4 May 2016.
  • ASIC, it will be held for six months after cancellation is complete. For example, a business name cancelled by ASIC on 4 January 2016 will not be available for registration until 4 July 2016.

Words and expressions taken to have the same meaning

Your proposed business name will be checked in consideration of words and expressions that are taken to mean the same.

When comparing a business name with another name to check if they are identical or 'nearly identical', certain words and expressions are taken to have the same meaning as other words or expressions.

On 20 July 2015 the Business Name Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015 came into effect. Words and expressions taken to be the same are specified in Schedule 1 of the Determination.

For example, the business name 'Premium Pest Control' will be considered nearly identical to 'Premium Pest Management' and will not be available for registration. The terms ‘Pest Control’ and ‘Pest Management’ are listed in the same item in Schedule 1 and are taken to be the same.

Please be aware that the nature of a business is not taken into consideration in determining whether a business name is available for registration.

Words that sound the same

Your proposed business name will be checked to see if it can be pronounced the same as another name on the register.

This test will be undertaken using the literal transcription of the proposed business name and the names against which it is being compared.

We will check your name for a pronunciation match against:

  • business names registered to another body, including names passed to us from a State or Territory register as a registered business name at commencement of the National Business Names service 
  • names registered to another body on a notified State or Territory register
  • names advised to us as being a Government body or a name specified under a Commonwealth, or State or Territory Act, and
  • business names we hold subject to finalisation of an activity, such as registration of an Australian Business Number, payment of the registration fee or cancellation of the registration.

For example, the following may be considered identical using the pronunciation test:

  • 'HARE OF THE DOG' and 'HAIR OF THE DOG'
  • 'COLOUR ME IN' and 'COLOUR ME INN'
Further links Description
Business Names Registration Act 2011 This Act details the legislative framework for business names in Australia.
Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015 This Determination provides whether business names are identical or nearly identical, whether business names are undesirable names and whether the use of some words of expressions should be restricted.

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Last updated: 08/06/2016 01:05