How to protect your business name?

Exclusive trading rights

A business name does not give you exclusive trading rights over that name.

The differences between business names, trademarks, company names and domain names sometimes cause confusion. Business name holders often think that by registering a business name they have protected a brand or trading name – whereas in fact the business names laws that exist today and from 28 May 2012 do not offer that type of protection.

The new business names laws have not changed any of the existing law relating to trademarks or to intellectual property in a name. Be aware that registering your business name does not give you ownership of that name.

Registering a particular name does not stop another person from registering a similar name nor does it give you the exclusive right to use the name or part of the name. Also, registering a business name will not prevent the name being used by somebody who has registered it as a trademark. This is an important point – and one that every business owner should be aware of.

The obligation to register a business name is a legal obligation which is entirely separate to any steps that business owners may take to protect any intellectual property rights in a name or brand, such as registering a trademark.

Licences

You should check for any state or territory business licenses that may be required. The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) will give tailored information about government-related licenses, registration and permits.

Trademarks

To assist new business start-ups, IP Australia has developed a new simplified online trademark search, called TM Check where you can search for existing trademarks to ensure your business name does not infringe on an existing registered trademark.

Domain name

A domain name gives online businesses a unique electronic address. You can arrange to buy a domain name yourself or through an internet service provider (ISP). To buy a .com.au or .net.au, you must be a commercial entity and possess either an Australian Company Number (ACN) or Australian Business Number (ABN).

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