Registering a Business Name
A business name is a trading name that helps customers recognise your business. There are legal requirements that come with having a business name.
You must register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). You must then adhere to several legal obligations to avoid fines and the possibility of losing the name you trade under.
Register your name before you spend money on signage, printed material, name tags or uniforms displaying your business name.
You can apply for an Australian business number (ABN) and a business name at the same time. You will use your ABN to manage your tax and deal with other businesses or government departments.
Choosing a name for your business gives you a chance to think about what impression you want to make. While you can be creative with your choice of business name, there are restrictions on what names are acceptable. Consider these restrictions before you apply for your business name to avoid being rejected.
This guide gives you information about naming your business
Do I Need to Register A Business Name?
If you are using your own name – your given name(s) and/or initial(s) followed by your surname – as a business name, it does not have to be registered.
You need to register your business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) if:
- you include other words with your name, such as Joan Smith Party Hire or John Smith & Sons
- you are trading under a name that is different from your own name
- you are operating a company (Pty Ltd) and want to trade under a different name to your company name.
Registering your business is important because it prevents you from mistakenly using the name of another Australian registered business, company or corporation. It also lets the public know who is conducting a business under the business name, and allows you to open a business bank account under your registered name.
You cannot use an unregistered business name, or a name that is different from your own name or company or corporation name.
Business name or company name?
A business name (e.g. Acme Trading Services) is different from a company name (e.g. Acme Pty Ltd). A business name is used by consumers to identify the company or persons behind a trading name. A company is a separate legal entity from its directors and shareholders.
Registering a company name prevents an identical business name or company name from being registered by competitors anywhere in Australia. If you want to operate your business as a company, you will need to register with ASIC.
Your rights as a registered business name holder
Registering a business name only gives you certain rights over that name. For example, it does not:
- give you ownership of the name or the exclusive right to use the name
- stop another person from registering a similar name
- prevent the name being registered as a trademark
- prevent the name being used by someone that has already registered it as a trademark
- protect you from legal action if the name of your business infringes the intellectual property rights of another (for example, a name which is a registered trademark).
To protect your business name further, you need to register it as a trademark.
How to do a Business Name Search
After choosing a natural and fitting name for your business, you must conduct a business name search to ensure it is available and acceptable to register.
Is your business name available?
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will check the suitability of your name, but it is good to check it first yourself to avoiding having your application rejected.
Your business name can’t be identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, an existing business name or company name already registered in Australia.
You are legally obligated to register a business name. It is a separate process and unrelated to intellectual property protection (e.g. trademark registrations).
Search for a business name
You can check if a name is available for registration by searching the ASIC register. The register will compare your name against an index of Australian corporations, businesses and government bodies.
Before you register a business name, you should also search:
- the free IP Australia Trade Mark Check (TM Check) to see if your proposed business name is identical or similar to a registered trademark
- .au Domain Administration Limited (.auDA) to see if the domain name you want to register for a business website is available
- the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) to see what licences you may need to run a particular type of business in each state or territory.
Is your business name acceptable?
Before you apply to register your business name, you should check that it is acceptable. Your business name is considered acceptable if it:
- is not misleading
- is non-offensive to the general public (not just certain groups)
- uses proper English characters (upside down or backward letters are not acceptable)
- does not include prohibited words or words with special meaning – for example, ‘commonwealth’, ‘federal’, ‘trust’, ‘trustee’ or ‘Made in Australia’
- does not falsely suggest or claim powerful connections.
How to Register a Business Name?
Once you have chosen an appropriate name, you can contact the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to:
In your application, you will need to provide:
- your Australian Business Number (ABN) or ABN application reference number
- your proposed business name and registration period
- the business locations or addresses
- the full names and addresses of all business owners.
Once your business name is registered, you will receive a record of registration effective for 1 year or 3 years, depending on the term you chose on your application. You will also need to meet legal obligations, that may include:
- displaying your business name
- renewing your registration to keep it active
- informing ASIC of any changes to your registered details within 28 days after the change occurs – including if you cease to trade under the business name.
A business name registration costs $33 for 1 year or $76 for 3 years.
Once you’ve registered your business name you can use ASIC’s business name services to renew your business name, cancel your business name or update your business name and address details.
If you registered your business name before 28 May 2012
If you registered your business name before 28 May 2012 in more than 1 state or territory, you may have multiple, identical, business names registered to you with ASIC. You can apply to have your unwanted business name registrations cancelled, or allow them to lapse. It is free to cancel a business name.
Read more about removing identical names on the ASIC website.
If your business name application was in progress on 28 May 2012
If your business name application was in progress on the 28 May 2012 (when the national Business Names Register came into effect), you will need to contact the state or territory agency you applied to. For example, in Queensland, you would contact the Office of Fair Trading.
Legal Obligations for Holding a Business Name
There are some legal obligations that come with holding a registered business name. You must comply with these to avoid fines and the possibility of losing the name you trade under.
Displaying your business name
You must clearly display your registered business name outside your Queensland business locations if the place of business is open to the public.
You must publish your registered business name on all business correspondence and documents, such as business letters, invoices, account statements, publications, official notices, orders and receipts.
You will receive a record of registration when you register or change a business name, or when an owner’s name changes. You don’t have to display the record at your business premises, but it is recommended that you do. Your bank, as well as your telephone and electricity suppliers, may also request to see your record.
Renewing your registration
To keep using your business name you need to renew your registration before the expiry date. The minimum registration period is 1 year. A discount is available if you renew for 3 years. If you don’t renew your registration, your business name will be removed from the register and another business will be free to use it. You could then be stopped from using the name you have been trading under.
Learn how to renew your business name registration by contacting the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
Changing your details
If you have any changes to business ownership, the names of business owners or your business addresses, you must tell ASIC within 28 days of the change.
Learn how to make changes to your business name details by contacting ASIC.
If you decide you want to change your business name, or if you have made a spelling error on your application, you will also need to contact ASIC.
Closing your business
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.
To cancel a business name, contact ASIC.
Learn more about exiting, selling or closing your business.
Trademarks and business names
Registering a business name does not give you the same rights as registering a trademark. You do not own this name or have exclusive rights to use the name or any words in the name, as you do when you register a trademark.
If you want to protect your business name from use by a competitor, you’ll need to register a trademark. You can then control the use of the name or any part of the name.
Tips for Creating a Business Name
A trusted and clearly identifiable business name can be a valuable asset in dealing with clients, lenders and other businesses. It is worth spending some time creating your business name, as a good name adds value to your business, and will be central to your business image and your branding.
Your business name should accurately reflect your business. It should clearly convey to potential clients the type of products or services you offer.
When you are choosing your business name you should make sure that it is:
- not too long
- easy to pronounce
- easy to spell
- not likely to date
- not offensive
- not misleading.
If you think you might want to trade overseas, you should check the suitability of your business name in other countries.
Business website and email
You should also check that your business name is able to be registered as a domain name for your website and email. While you might be able to set up a free email address, sending emails from a business address will look more professional to potential clients. Most people will also expect that the website for your business is similar to your business name. You can check if your name is available and locate a domain name registrar through the Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA).
You might also want to consider choosing a business name that you can trademark. That way you can protect your name from being used by a competitor. You can learn more about trademarks on the IP Australia website.
Source: Queensland Government website