It’s the first thing your customer sees, helps communicate what your business is and distinguishes you from your competitors. Choosing a name for your business is one of the earliest and most important decisions you’ll make for your business, and can be one of the most expensive to change down the line.

Before you register a business name there are a few things to consider.

1. Do you need to register your business name?

You’ll need to register your business name if you conduct business in Australia and are not trading under your own name. In some cases you may not need a business name. For example if you’re an individual trading under your own name, or if you’re in a partnership trading under all partners’ names, or if you’re already an Australian company and your operating name is the same as your company’s name.

2. Search to see if your business name is available 

Use the Business Name Check tool to see if your business name is available or if there are existing businesses with similar names. You can also run an initial check on whether your business name is trade marked using IP Australia's TM Checker tool.

This allows you to see if there are potential conflicts with other businesses who have exclusive legal rights to trade with that name. You’ll also be able to see if there are any domains (website addresses) available to match your business name.

3. Identify any other registrations you might need for your business

If you’re in the process of setting up your business, it’s important to understand which other key registrations you might need. These are usually dependent on your business structure. Whether you’re a sole trader, a company or a trust, the help me decide tool can help guide on the registrations you might need.

4. Apply for a business name

Once you’ve checked your business name is available and know which registrations you might need, you can apply for your business name. The Business Registration Service provides a simple way to apply for your business name. You can also apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN), Pay as You Go (PAYG) and withholding Goods and Services Tax (GST) at the same time. Make sure you understand the fees to register a business name.

5. Protect your business with a trade mark

Once you’ve registered your business name, you can also apply to protect your business name, branding and logo with a trade mark. Registering a trade mark for your business name, logo, or other sign means you have exclusive rights to use your trade mark in Australia and protects from others using your trade mark on similar goods and services. It also allows you to license your brand and authorise others to use it.

Of course, you don’t need to register for a trade mark if you feel the costs outweigh the benefits. They aren’t a legal requirement, but rather a safeguard to give you more legal options if your business name is copied, or if someone else registers your business name as their trade mark and asks you to stop trading under it. Learn more about registering trade marks by visiting IP Australia

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Things you should know

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this, consider the appropriateness to your circumstances.