Choosing a business name


19th October, 2023

What to consider when choosing a business name

Choosing a business name is a big decision that significantly impacts how your customers perceive the business and distinguish it from your competitors.

The importance of this decision is often overlooked in the early stages, but it can be expensive to discover you need to change the name later.

Let’s dive into some things you should consider when choosing a business name.

Choosing a business name

Is the name already being used?

It’s important to see if the name is already registered. You can use the Business Name Check tool to check against existing business names, in case any of them match what you want to use.

You can also check your proposed domain names at the same time.

It’s important to know the differences between business names and domain names because each protects your business differently.

Your business name is the name you trade under and is tied to your ABN.

Your domain name, or web address, reflects your brand in a way that allows customers to find your business online.

Registering a business name or domain name does not give you exclusive ownership of that brand name in the market.

Someone who has previously registered the name as a trade mark can still use the name and challenge your use.

If you want to have exclusive rights in the name for the types of goods and services you trade in, a registered trade mark can give you that kind of protection.

Do you need to register your business name with the Government?

If you conduct business in Australia, you may need to register your business name. You can visit the Business Registration Service to register.

When choosing a business name, there are some exceptions to this requirement below:

  • you’re an individual trading under your own name
  • if you’re running a partnership trading under the names of all partners
  • you have an Australian company and use the company name for your operations.
Choosing a business name

Why would you want to register your name as a trade mark?

Once you’re done with choosing a business name and successfully registering it, you might consider getting the protection offered by a registered trade mark.

This step can help protect your business name, logo, phrase, word, letter, colour and many other aspects of branding.

While registering a trade mark creates an important asset, less than 4% of small businesses in Australia have done this.

This means many business owners are yet to discover important benefits of protecting their brand with a registered trade mark:

  • exclusive rights to use the trade mark as their brand in Australia
  • the legal right to place the ® symbol next to their trade mark
  • a legal avenue to prevent others from using their brand to trade similar goods and services
  • a new asset that helps increase the value of their business
  • brand protection for an initial period of 10 years, which can be renewed indefinitely.

Is your name, phrase or logo eligible to be registered as a trade mark?

You can use IP Australia’s TM Checker to confirm that your name or other branding isn’t already registered by someone else in Australia, is not deceptively similar to another and is distinctive enough to register.

When choosing a business name, some words, phrases or images can’t be registered because they’re common and available for everyone.

If your check finds an existing trade mark that’s similar to yours, it may still be possible to register it.

Both trade marks can co-exist if the goods and services they relate to are different.

For example, ‘DOVE’ on soap and ‘DOVE’ on chocolate. Although both trade marks are for the same word, ‘soap’ and ‘chocolate’ are considered to be different goods, with a different purpose and sold through different trade channels.

Using TM Checker is simple, quick and free. If your check shows your proposed trade mark is not registered, you can apply to register it, from $330.

The short TM Checker video below explains more about this process of applying to register a trade mark.

What if you don’t trade mark your business name?

Getting a trade mark is not a requirement when it comes to choosing a business name, but can be an investment in the long-term success of your business.

Much can be learned from the experience of Sydney restaurant — Fat Duck which opened in Sydney in 2011. Shortly after opening, the restaurant was required to relinquish their name and rebrand.

This was a result of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal filing an application for trade mark protection.

Intending to reserve and protect the name for his chain of fine dining restaurants, Heston’s company won their claim in the Federal Court of Australia as they had filed all the requirements for the relevant trade mark rights.

The Fat Duck restaurant was required to rebrand their business, demonstrating that if you haven’t protected your name or logo against competitors, you may run the risk of losing the rights to it.

If you’d like to read more about choosing a business name and trade marks, IP Australia has lots of information for small businesses about trade marks and other important intellectual property rights.

If you’d like to learn about other aspects of setting up your business such as finances, marketing or tax, the Australian Government’s helpful guide to starting a business covers all these things and more.