Choosing your business name is one of the first and most important things you will do when you start your business. It’s an important decision and you don’t want to get it wrong – it can be a costly mistake.
When you finally choose the clever name that you took quite some time to decide on, canvassed friends and family to ensure it was engaging, witty, understandable and memorable, thought of design and logo ideas etc….make sure you have an alternate name. Just in case.
Many businesses start by registering their name with ASIC as either a business name or company. A good start. You buy your domain name, start up your business, build your website, market your product or services.
Then, after establishing and conducting your business for a few months (or years) using your great business name, you receive a notice from another person claiming that you are breaching their registered trademark. They have registered the trademark name for a similar business. How can this happen, especially if you have registered the business with ASIC?
It can and does happen. Registering a business name does not give you exclusive rights over use of the name. Only when you register your trademark with IP Australia (and are accepted) do you get those rights.
With ASIC, you register your business or company name, not what type of business activity you conduct and it does not give you any proprietary rights, particularly in relation to goods or services/activity using that name.
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When you register your trademark for your business, you are able to register business activity with a name and/or logo associated. In other words, IP Australia is protecting the business activity that is associated with the name and logo. ASIC does not.
Unfortunately, ASIC does not have systems that link to IP Australia and, provided that the business name is not already registered with ASIC, will happily register the name for you, irrespective of whether it has been registered as a trademark already with IP Australia.
If it is already a registered trademark, the owner has a right to do business under that name, mark and may prevent you from doing so. You need to make your own enquiries before you register your business name with ASIC.
To ensure you do not waste valuable time on setting up a business with a name you may not be able to use, follow these essential steps first:
- Search the ASIC website for your preferred business name.
- Search the IP Australia website for your business name.
- Check the domain name is available, plus all derivations such as .net, .com, .org and any overseas countries you might expand into.
- Register the name with ASIC and the business name as a trademark with IP Australia.
- Lastly, register all the similar domain names and hold onto the ones you won’t use to protect your name from copycat businesses.
Registering a business name together with the trademark and domain name should be a priority. Don’t get caught out – check your options beforehand … and have a backup name ready just in case!