What is a business name?

A business name is a name or title under which a person or entity conducts a business.

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Video: What is a business name and how to apply for one

Watch our YouTube video about business names and how to apply for one.

Video transcript: What is a business name and how to apply for one

A business name is the name that a business uses to trade under. For example, this café is called The Coffee Party Cafe. Unless you’re using your own name – like John Smith – for your business, you actually have to register your business name with ASIC.

You might think that registering a business name means that you own it. I was surprised to learn that it doesn’t; people can still register and use similar names!. If you want exclusive use of the name, you actually need to register it as a trade mark with IP Australia.

Once you’ve chosen a name for your business, it’s probably a good idea to check with both ASIC and IP Australia, that no one else has registered it. I originally wanted to call this Café Coffee, but when I checked with ASIC, the name was already taken.

Once you’ve decided on a name, and you're sure that it’s available, there are a few things that you should sort out. You'll need an Australian Business Number, or ABN. You can apply for one through the Australian Business Register website, so I’d recommend starting there.

You can also get an AUSkey there, which is a secure login that you can use to interact with government online services, such as the ASIC website and the Australian Tax Office, or ATO. It certainly makes life easier.

You should also check with the Australian Business Licence and Information Service that you have all the licences you need to trade.

If you’re planning on creating a website for your business, you should check with the Domain Name Administration Authority, to see if the domain name you want is available. You’ll need an ABN if you wish to buy a ‘.com.au’ or ‘.net.au’ domain name.

And that’s pretty much all you need to consider before registering your business name. You can see that it’s a pretty simple process. But, if you get stuck, just check out the user guides on ASIC’s website. They’re very helpful. You should also check out ASIC’s other videos on YouTube.

When should I register a business name?

You will need to register a business name if you carry on business within Australia and are not trading under your own name.

Exceptions to this include:

  • if you are operating as an individual and your operating name is the same as your first name and surname
  • if you are in a partnership and your operating name is the same as all the partners' names, or
  • if you are an already registered Australian company and your operating name is the same as your company's name.

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 need to register a business name, look through the examples in Regulatory Guide 235.

What a business name registration does not provide

Registering a business name does not provide exclusive ownership of your business name. It also doesn't prevent other people from being able to register and use similar names.

To gain exclusivity over a particular business name, you need to register it as a trade mark with IP Australia.

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Last updated: 29/04/2014 12:00