Complete These 3 Easy Steps Prior to Naming Your Business

Follow our easy steps to ensure your business name does not infringe or potentially infringe on an existing business.  

When starting a business, a business name should be carefully considered and researched before you start trading and undertake business activities.

Not completing this due diligence can result in costly litigation and /or rebranding of the business.

Follow our easy steps to ensure your business name does not infringe or potentially infringe on an existing business.

Step 1 – Understanding Differences in Names

To begin with you must understand the differences in the types of names out there in the business world.

Legal names, business names, company names and domain names often may refer to the same entity and appear to be similar, however, each category of name has a different meaning and requires different consideration. Throw into the mix Trade Marks, and you have a number of factors to consider when naming your business.

Legal names

If an individual operates their business under their own name, first name and surname, (most often referred to as a sole trader), there is no need to register a business name in Australia.

You should, however, conduct a search to make sure no other sole traders are out there in the world selling similar products or services as yours, under the same name. For when it comes to names (be it a legal name, trade name or company name) you cannot have a name that is likely to mislead or deceive your customers.

Business names

Often referred to as a trading name, a business name helps identify your business for customers and competitors alike. If you carry on business within Australia, you need to register a business name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and you cannot have a business name that is likely to mislead or deceive.

Company names

Companies can only use a company name that is not identical to an existing company or business name. They can be similar, but not identical and cannot be misleading or deceptive.

All company names in Australia are registered with ASIC.

Domain names

Domain names are issued by private internet companies. The purpose of a domain name is to secure the web URL only. There is nothing stopping a person or company from purchasing any available domain name “and parking it” to either protect their business name or with hopes that someone will want it in the future and need to buy it from them.

Where do Trade Marks come in?


Registration of a business name and company name are mandatory in Australia, however, they do not automatically stop others from using the same or similar name. This is where Trade Marks come in and help.

A Trade Mark is a way of identifying a unique product or service. It’s a form of brand protection which distinguishes between your products or services and those belonging to your competitors.

A Trade Mark is not just a logo. It can be a word (in a plain font or a ‘fancy font’) and therefore you can effectively trademark a name, by trademarking a word . For example, in Australia, McDonalds have the words “McDonalds” and “McDonald’s Golden Arches” trademarked along with their golden arches logo.

A registered Trade Mark provides you with exclusive rights to use, license and sell the mark which makes it easier for you to take legal action to prevent others from using it.

Step 2 – Searches

In Australia you can search for business and company names in use (and therefore names that are taken) through ASIC Connect.

To search for a Trade Mark go to the IP Australia website.

To search domain names you need to search various registers. For example if you want the .au domain for your business you would search the auDA website.

Step 3 – Google Search

And last but not least, always do a Google search of your proposed business name.

A Google search is often the cheapest, quickest and most effective search you can undertake when it comes to researching your proposed business name. And just as importantly it acts as a worldwide search. Too often start-ups have a ‘local only focus’ when they commence trading and fail to consider business name issues if their business was to expand interstate or internationally. A Google search also often brings up domain names (available and taken), unregistered Trade Marks (if any) and is a good ‘catch all’ search to do.

Key Takeaways

Before you commence business operations under a business name make sure that you:

  • Search it
  • Register it (business and company name)
  • Trade Mark it
  • Purchase it (for domain names)

And if you would like legal advice on any of the above our Business and Company Lawyers offer a Free Case Evaluation and are more than happy to assist.


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The information in this article is not legal advice and is intended to provide commentary and general information only. It should not be relied upon or used as a definitive or complete statement of the relevant law. You should obtain formal legal advice specific to your particular circumstance. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Senior Associate Solicitor