Australia: IP basics: Registering, owning and protecting a business name as part of your IP Strategy

Last Updated: 30 May 2017
Article by Patricia Monemvasitis

While there are no limits to the range of stimulating IP topics out there, there are also some more common topics that are often the most practically relevant to many readers. One such topic is business names, and how to register and protect them. This seemingly straightforward process can often harbour complexities that, when understood and utilised, can hold many benefits. In this post, we go through a selection of important considerations for registering and protecting a business name as part of your overall IP strategy.

Naming your business

So you've come up with a great business idea, in your mind you've crossed through all the details, and then in a marketing epiphany like no other you've conceived of the name for your business and you want that name more than anything. What do you do?

Painting that name in big bright letters all over your shopfront, car, or on every letterhead may seem like an emphatic way to name your business, but without proper registration that is a disaster waiting to happen.

First of all, unless the business name you have chosen happens to be your own personal name or that of the relevant partners of a partnership, using the business name without registering it is an offence under Section 18 of the Business Names Registration Act (2011) (Cth) which also defines "business name" as "a name" used, or to be used, in relation to one or more businesses".

Secondly, you may be using:

  • a business name that has already been reserved or registered by someone else on the Australian Business Name Register ("Register") operated by ASIC,
  • a trade mark already registered or pending to be registered in Australia on the register administered by IP Australia, and/ or
  • a domain name including one registered with the Australian domain name authority, auDA.

So before you invest valuable advertising resources or do anything else in relation to settling on a name, it is critical to ensure that the name you want to use for your business is available for registration and reserved or registered as quickly as possible. To find out whether the name you want is available for registration as a business name a search on the Business Names Register operated by ASIC is required and can be conducted free of charge online.

Additionally, to find out whether the business name you want is being used as a domain name a search of the WHOIS register of website addresses or domain names maintained by the Australian domain name authority, auDA is required and can be conducted free of charge online.

Registering a Business Name

If the name you wish to register as an Australian Business Name is available, you can proceed to registration. Click here to view registration page.

To be able to register a Business Name, you will need to have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or be in the process for applying for one, ABNs are processed by the Australian Business Register and applications can be submitted online, or on paper, without charge. For companies, an ABN application will require that you have an Australian Company Number (ACN) or Australian Registered Business Number (ARBN) prior to applying. An ACN or ARBN can be obtained through a separate registration process with ASIC (all the ACNC if you are a charity).

Once you have an ABN, you can create an online account with ASIC and make an application to register an Australian Business Name. For this you will need to provide ASIC with the following details:

  • Name and date and country of birth of the relevant individuals within the business (e.g. the individual sole trader, directors of the company or partners in a partnership or joint venture);
  • Email address for service of notices
  • Address (a physical street address – not a mailing address).
  • An address for service of document which can be either a street address or a mailing (postal box address).

Finally, you will need to determine the period for registration and pay the prescribed fees.

Protecting your Business Name

So if at last you managed to get through all of the above and you are holding proudly your Business Name Registration Certificate you can start legally using the registered name in the conduct of your business. Yet, even though you have obtained the registration of your Business Name, it does not therefore mean that you own it! This might come as a surprise – after all what was all that registration stuff about? Well, the fact is that the benefits of a registered business name mostly end at the point of being able to use it. There are no proprietary rights in a Business Name Registration and this means that if someone else starts to use this name for their product or in their advertising or even if they are using it online from another country your registration of this name as a Business Name cannot, on its own, legally stop them. Moreover, by continuing to use the name they may even be acquiring proprietary rights in that name despite your business name registration.

This is why it is critical to protect the business name with registration as a trade mark. Words including names (as well as logos, words in logos, graphics, sounds, smells, and aspects of colour) can be registered as Trade Marks under the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) if formal requirements for registration are met. Of course some business names may face difficulties with trade mark registration if for example the business name is descriptive or generic in relation to the goods or services in respect of which the trade mark is being used and proposed for registration, or if another trader has already registered a name identical or deceptively similar to your business name as their trade mark for a same or similar class of goods or services. For these reasons, it is recommended to consider the choice of business name in light of trade mark registrability to get the complete picture of the intellectual property stock for your business. The above problems relating to generic and/or descriptive name and/or conflict with another trade mark may however sometimes be overcome depending on the circumstances. Yet, if at the outset of choosing a business name, these issues are considered, a lot of cost an disruption can be avoided.

You should also raise an objection to the use of your business name by another entity in writing as soon as you become aware of this. Failing to do so could be interpreted later on as permission by you to use the business name which could affect your rights in the business name and brand that it is attached to.

And not to forget the Internet of things

Finally, in today's online world, your business name might just need a place on the web. And this is where a registration of a domain name becomes important. Just like a business names register, the Australian domain name authority, auDA, keeps a registry of all website addresses or "domain names". The registry can be searched to ascertain availability for the domain name for a potential business name and ensuring that both the business name and domain name are concurrently secured. The trade mark registration can also be used to protect the domain name just as with the business name.

Be thoughtful and prosper

As seen, the registration of a business name involves a number of procedural steps which if taken in the right order and without complication of availability, can be a fairly straightforward affair. When it comes to effective IP protection for your business though, a more targeted and holistic IP strategy can make a world of difference so it is worthwhile to make the prudent choice and investment in your IP early on.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Patricia Monemvasitis
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.