Contrary to what some may think, a business name and a company name are not synonymous with one another. The key difference between a company name and a business name is that a registered business name is the name in which a venture operates under. A company name, however, is a legal entity on its own.

You must have a business name (unless you meet the exception), however you only need a company name if you choose to register as a company.  

Is It Really That Important?

Naming your business is an essential part of its future success. The name is a huge part of your business’s brand. The name under which your business operates will likely become its public identity. Beyond that, the name you chose for your business will also impact its functions, protections and limitations. 

A huge aspect of this is registering your business name and deciding whether or not your business will benefit from having a company name. Knowing the difference between a company name and a business name is a good place to start.

What Is A Business Name?

A business name is the title in which a venture operates under. Businesses in Australia must be registered under ASIC. For most business ventures, you will likely need to Register A Business Name, unless an exception applies to you (we’ll cover this shortly). 

If your structure is something like a sole trader, then having a business name by itself may be sufficient. That said, you should always seek advice where you can (especially if you have bigger plans for your business’ future!).

What Is A Company Name?

A company name is the legal registration of a company. Once a business is registered as a company, the following points will apply to them:

  • The company will enjoy the same rights as a natural person. They can own property, employ others, incur debt and be liable for legal action just like another person (this is also known as being a separate legal entity)
  • A private company will have PTY LTD at the end of its name, while public companies have LTD. 
  • All legal acts, including contracts and other legal documentation, are done under the company name.
  • The Corporations Act 2001 applies to the company.

What About A Trading Name?

Formerly, an unregistered business could operate under a trading name. However, the National Business Names Register was introduced in 2012 and changed this. 

Now, a business must now register their name under ASIC as a business name. If you’re still operating under a trading name, you need to register under ASIC by November 2023. 

Afterwards, those names that are not registered will cease to exist.  

Even though the term trading name is effectively an ‘old term’ that is no longer used under company regulations, it’s still colloquially used in business to describe what is now referred to as a business name.

When Do I Need To Register My Business Name?

As soon as you start your business, it is essential to register your business name in order for it to be a legally recognised venture. The only time you do not need to worry about registering a business name is if you meet the following exceptions:

  • If you operate as a sole trader or an individual and use your legal name for this (for example, if your name is Ally Taylor and your business name is Ally Taylor).
  • A partnership where the business name is the same as the names of the partners.
  • If your business already operates as a legally registered company, with the operating name matching the company name.

Registration Of My Business Means I Own It, Right?

Unfortunately, registration does not mean you have exclusive rights to that name, nor will it prevent others from using that name. Generally to ensure that you have the exclusive right to use your business name, you will need to register a Trade Mark for the name.

If you don’t register a trade mark, it’s possible you won’t be able to secure your ownership rights over the name. While in some cases, registering and using a name without registering a trade mark can give you certain intellectual property rights, including a potential unregistered trade mark, in your business or trading name it is highly advisable to register a trade mark to ensure that you have clear, recognisable legal protections.

You can read more about trade marks in our article, Protecting Your IP With A Trade Mark.

Creating a logo for your business is a great way to visually capture the essence of your establishment and its goods or services. Company logos are an essential role in the marketing of a business and many business owners create one to suit theirs.

The answer, however, is no. Your business or company registration will not automatically protect your logo.

A logo is a trademark, so in order to secure protection for your trademark, you must go through a different process. It’s always a good idea to Register A Trademark for any form of IP that you want to own. 

Before you settle on a logo or a business name, it’s a good idea to check the IP Australia Trade Mark Search tool. There, you’ll be able to search for any trade marks that are already registered. The last thing you want is to go through the process of applying for a trade mark – only to find someone else has already registered it.

How To Register A Business Name With ASIC

Registering a business name is an easy and quick process that is done online. To register your business, go to the ASIC Website.

First, you will need to check if the name you want is available. You can look through the ASIC Register to confirm this. Then, you will need to fill an online form. Once your application has been reviewed and processed, you can expect to receive your registered business name in the mail.

If you are still confused about this process or have any questions, our team at Sprintlaw will be more than happy to assist you.

Next Steps

There is a lot to consider when registering your business. The process can be quite simple, but if you want to  take that extra step and register as a company, the process can be a little trickier. If this sounds like your plan, it’s a good idea to chat to an expert lawyer who can help you out.

At Sprintlaw, we’re always happy to aid with the registering of the name of your new venture. If you have any questions or want an expert’s opinion, we’re here to help.  

If you would like a consultation on your options going forward, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or for a free, no-obligations chat.

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