How to register a Business Name
If you’re looking to start a home business and plan to operate the business as a sole trader, partnership or a trust, then you must register a business name. There are some exceptions to this, for example if you plan to trade under your own legal name (e.g. Jane Smith) then you don’t have to register a business name.
If you plan to operate the business as a company, then you must register a company name instead (and you can skip the rest of this article!). For more information on company names, see the business.gov.au website.
What’s a business name?
A business name is simply the name that your business will trade under. It’s the name that your customers will see on invoices, business cards and so on.
Is a business name the same as a trading name?
A business name is sometimes called a ‘trading name’, but technically trading names are no longer being used in Australia (they’re being phased out). In a nutshell, a trading name is not the same thing as a registered business name. For more information about trading names, see the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (asic.gov.au) website.
Where do I go to register my business name?
The process to register a business name is pretty straight forward, but it does require you to have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or be in the process of applying for one. If you don’t already have an ABN or an application for one pending, then you should start by registering your ABN on the Australian Business Registrar website (abr.gov.au).
What does it cost to register a business name?
Business name registration costs $34 for 1 year or $80 for 3 years of registration.
How do I check if the business name I want is available?
You can check the availability of a business name using the search feature on the asic.gov.au website.
The easiest way to search is by selecting ‘Check Name Availability‘ from the dropdown menu under ‘Search within‘. Then type in the business name you would like to check (in the ‘For‘ field) – hit the ‘Go‘ button and you’re away.
Are there rules on what I can register as my business name?
There are some limitations on what you can register as your business name. For example, you can’t register a business name that is already registered.
You also can’t register a business name that is likely to be offensive to members of the public or a section of the public.
There are restricted words and phrases too, for example using the word ‘charity’ in your business name will require elevated approval.
An area where it does get somewhat complicated, and one that can trip up many people looking to register a business name, is the test for whether the proposed business name registration is “identical or nearly identical to a name already registered to another entity“.
For example, in considering if a proposed registration is ‘identical or nearly identical’ to a registered name, domain name extensions such as .com.au and prefixes such as ‘the’ will be removed from proposed and registered business names being compared. Here’s a quick example of this test in practice:
Proposed business name: Lucky Country
Existing, registered business name: The Lucky Country
Likely outcome: the proposed business name is not eligible for registration, as it’s ‘identical or nearly identical’ to a registered name.
For a great overview of the tests that are applied for business names, see the guidance page on asic.gov.au.
Are there limitations to the brand protection offered by a business name?
Whilst registering a business name is important for trading in Australia, it’s simply a legal obligation and does very little to protect your brand.
A registered business name will not protect your brand in the same way that having a trademark or owning the appropriate domain name would.
It’s important that you consider how you’ll protect your brand or intellectual property (IP) assets through other avenues such as purchasing the right domain name for your business.