Business name availability tests

When checking if a business name is available to register, we apply a series of automated tests to assist us in assessing that the name:

  • is not identical or nearly identical to a name that is already registered to someone else

  • is not undesirable for registration, and

  • does not include any restricted words or expressions.

The automated tests are applied in accordance with the rules set out in the Business Names Registration Act 2011 and the Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015 (the Names Determination).

An explanation of these tests is provided below.

It’s important to note that even though a name might be available to register, it does not give you exclusive rights to the use of that name. It is the responsibility of business owners to make sure their name does not infringe on any existing names or Trade Marks. You should always check your proposed business name for any existing trade marks with IP Australia.

For more information, visit How to protect your business name.

Invalid characters

Business names can only contain certain characters. A full list of accepted characters is outlined below.

Examples of unacceptable characters include umlauts (ä) and some special characters (like the 'greater than' > symbol).

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

Unknown words

A business name that contains a word that is unknown to our systems may queue for a manual assessment. This may include words that are made up, words that have an unusual spelling, or words that are compounded.

By manually assessing these words, we can make sure that the word isn’t restricted and that the name is not otherwise undesirable for registration.

Undesirable words or expressions

Your proposed business name will be checked to make sure that it:

  • is not likely to be offensive to members of the public or members of a section of the public, and 

  • does not suggest a connection with a prescribed entity or body where no such connection exists.

For example, the name 'Department of Finance Money Exchange' may suggest a connection with the Commonwealth Department of Finance and will be refused if the applicant does not have a valid connection with that Government department.

For more information about the kind of names that are undesirable, see 'Undesirable names'.

Restricted words or expressions

Your proposed business name will be checked for any restricted words or expressions.

Certain words and expressions are restricted from use in business names to prevent their improper use from misleading members of the public. A restricted word or expression cannot be used in a business name unless you have written consent from the relevant Minister or public authority.

Abbreviations of restricted words and expressions, or words and expressions that have the same or a similar meaning, are also restricted.

Some examples of restricted words are ‘Charity’, ‘Incorporated’, Co-operative’, ‘Bank’ and ‘University’.

For more information, see 'Restricted words and expressions'.

Identical or nearly identical names

We will check if your proposed business name is identical or nearly identical to any other names.

Your proposed business name cannot be registered if it’s identical or nearly identical to any of the following:

  • a business name that is already registered to someone else;

  • a name that is reserved or registered under the Corporations Act 2001 for another body, such as a company or registrable body name;

  •  a name that is registered on a notified State or Territory register. Notified registers include registers of co-operative societies, incorporated associations and/or limited partnerships;

  • any notified names of Commonwealth, State or Territory government bodies;

  • any names that are held for review. For example, when a business name is cancelled it will be held for a review period of four months, or six months if the cancellation was initiated by ASIC;

  • any names that are pending and for which someone else has priority. For example, a business name may be pending because an application is waiting on payment or confirmation of an Australian Business Number; or

  • any business name that is held for transfer. If you are the new holder of the business name, visit Transfer your business name  to learn how to register the business name with your details.

It should be noted that there are separate rules for comparing a business name with company names and separate rules for comparing business names with business names.

The Names Determination prescribes specific rules that we are required to use when comparing a business name with other names to determine if they are identical or nearly identical, and our Business Name Availability tests are applied accordingly.

Rules for comparing business names with company names 

When comparing a business name with a company name, the rules set out in Part 1 of Schedule 6 of the Corporations Regulations 2001 apply.  

Under these rules, a business name is identical or nearly identical to a company name if the names are the same after the following matters are disregarded:

  • the use of the definite (the) or indefinite (a, an) article as the first word in one or both names;

  • the use of the words “Proprietary”, “Pty”, “Limited”, “Ltd”, “No Liability” or “NL”;

  • whether a word is plural or singular in one or both names;

  • the type, size and case of letters, the size of any numbers or other characters, and any accents, spaces and punctuation marks used in the names; and

  • when comparing a proposed business name to a company name, where one name includes a word or expression in the second column in the following table and the other name contains an alternative for that word or expression listed in the third column: 


Item

The word or expression...

is considered the same as the alternative word or expression...

1

Australian

Aust

2

Company

Co or Coy

3

Co

Company or Coy

4

Coy

Company or Co

5

Number

No

6

and

&

7

Incorporated

Inc

8

Corporation

Corp

9

Australian Company Number

ACN

Case study: Name availability - The Australian Health Spa

Sam wants to register a new business name ‘The Australian Health Spa’. However, there’s already an existing company named ‘AUST Health Spa Pty Ltd’.

As explained above, the definite article ‘The’ in the business name and the words ‘Pty’ and ‘Ltd’ in the company name are disregarded.  The use of capitals is also disregarded. Finally, the word ‘Australian’ in the business name is considered to be the same as the equivalent word ‘Aust’, as per item 1 in the table above.

Once these matters are disregarded, this leaves “aust health spa” in the proposed business name and “aust health spa” in the company name. Based on this, the names are considered identical and Sam would not be able to register ‘The Australian Health Spa’ as a business name.

Rules for comparing business names with other names

The Names Determination sets out the rules we are required to apply when determining if a business name is identical or nearly identical to another name.

These rules provide matters that are to be disregarded and matters that are to be considered when comparing business names with other names (other than company names).

Matters that are disregarded

The table below explains the matters that we are required to disregard when comparing a business name with another name (other than a company name):

Matters that are disregarded

Examples

The use of the definite (the) or indefinite (a, an) article, unless it is the whole name

“A bird in the hand” is the same as “Bird in hand”

The use of the words:

  • association
  • co-operative
  • incorporated
  • limited or Ltd
  • no liability or NL
  • proprietary or Pty

“Business Growth Association” is the same as “Business Growth”

Whether a word is singular or plural. The singular and plural forms of a word are considered the same.

‘Child’ and ‘Children’

‘Car’ and ‘Cars’

‘Battery’ and ‘Batteries’

The size of characters, the type and case of letters, any accents, and spaces between characters and punctuation marks

”Australian Holiday Apartments” is the same as “australianholidayapartments”

The order of words in the names

“Green House” is the same as “House Green”

Host names such as ‘www’ and domain extensions such as ‘net’, ‘org’ or ‘com’

“www.myfirstbusiness.com.au” is the same as “My First Business” or “myfirstbusiness.org”

 

Case study: Name availability – Chef’s Kitchen

Rob wants to register the business name ‘Chefs’ Kitchens’. However, there’s an existing business name on the register named ‘Kitchen Chef’.

Based on the rules set out in the Names Determination, any capitals or punctuation are disregarded. The plural forms ‘chefs’ and ‘kitchens’ are also disregarded. This leaves ‘chef kitchen’ in one name and ‘kitchen chef’ in the other name.

The order of words in the names is also to be disregarded and; therefore, ‘chef kitchen’ and ‘kitchen chef’ are identical.  Rob would not be able to register ‘Chef’s Kitchens’ because of the existing business name.

Matters to be considered - words and expressions taken to be the same

When comparing a business name with another name, certain words and expressions are taken to be the same as other words or expressions.

The Names Determination includes a schedule that lists items, or groups, of words and expressions that are taken to be the same as each other word or expression in that item.

The list of items in schedule 1 is exhaustive, meaning that it only applies to the words or expressions that appear in that list.  Some examples of those items are:

Item

Words and expressions

111

bakehouse, bakery, bakers

120

carpenters, carpentry, carpentry services, carpentry solution

156

pizza, pizza bar, pizzeria

171

&, and

198

mechanic, mechanical, mechanical repairs, mechanical services, mechanics

This means that when comparing business names, a name such as ‘Fresh Bread Bakehouse’ is considered identical or nearly identical to ‘Fresh Bread Bakery’ because ‘bakehouse’ and ‘bakery’ appear in the same item.

Likewise, ‘Mike’s Pizza’ is identical or nearly identical to ‘Mike’s Pizza Bar’. However, it would not be identical to ‘Mike’s Pizza and Pasta Bar’ because ‘Pizza and Pasta Bar’ is not listed in the same item as ‘Pizza Bar’.

For the full list of words and expressions that are taken to be the same, see Schedule 1 of the Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015

Matters to be considered - pronunciation 

Your proposed business name will be checked to see if it can be pronounced the same as another name on the register. This is done using the literal transcription of the proposed business name and the names against which it is being compared.

For example, the following names may be pronounced the same and are considered to be identical or nearly identical:

  • 'Creative@Work’ is the same as ‘Kre8tive at Work’

  • ‘100% Cats’ is the same as ‘100 percent Kats’

  • ‘Dollar Shop’ is the same as ‘$ shop’

  • ‘Hare of the Dog' is the same as 'Hair of the Dog'

  • 'Colour in' is the same as 'Colour Inn'

  • ‘Katz Hair Dressing’ is the same as ‘Kat’s Hair Dressing’

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Last updated: 30/04/2014 12:00