Are a business name, company name and a trade mark all the same thing? No, not really. In short, these three names have different meanings, different uses and are registered in different ways.
Regardless of the type of name that you are looking to register, you need to undertake preliminary searches to ensure the name is available for you to use. Don’t get too far down the path with logos and designs if you aren’t certain that your business name is free for you to use.
- Business Names
A business name is the trading name of your business. You must register a business name unless you trade under your own name.
For instance, if you operate as a sole trader under an ABN, then you can register a business name that isn’t your own name (i.e. Sally Name trading as Sally’s Simple Solutions). Alternatively, a company name can operate under a different name through registering that business name (i.e. Simply Solutions Pty Ltd trading as Sally’s Simple Solutions).
Business names are registered through the Australia Government Business Registration Service or through a private service provider. Your business name must meet certain requirements and you can check these requirement out by visiting the ASIC website.
- Company Name
A company name attaches to your company, which is a separate legal entity registered with ASIC. A company is its own name in itself and would include its legal identifier (i.e. ‘pty’ and/or ‘ltd’ at the end of the name).
A company can register a business name if it wants to carry on a business using its name without those legal terms, or if it wants to use a different name. For example, Simply Solutions Pty Ltd trading as Sally’s Simple Solutions.
- Trade Marks
A trade mark is used to distinguish the goods and services of one trader from those of another. A trade mark is the branding, logos, and slogans of a business that can be protected through registering that trade mark with IP Australia.
You cannot apply for a trademark that covers all categories of goods and services. Goods and services are divided into classes, and there are 45 unique classes. Classes 1 to 34 are for goods, and 35 to 45 are for services. The heading of each class tells you the particular type of goods or service covered in that particular class. For example, class 26 is named ‘Clothing, footwear or headwear’.
We recommend that any new business register their business names and any trade marks that relate to their goods and services. Your brand and your intellectual property are valuable assets of your business and should be protected to avoid any theft or use by others. Your name distinguishes your business from competitors, encapsulates your business identity and accrues goodwill.
There are certain requirements and hoops to jump through for any business name, company name or trade mark. For instance, ASIC have strict guidelines about company names which prohibit you from registering a name that is identical to an existing company’s name, using certain words or phrases like ‘university’. If your company or business name is unique or unrelated, it is generally easier to register, particularly if you are looking to trade mark your names down the track.
A relevant trademark search will find other trademarks which are the same or similar to yours in the same class.
Below are some of the Bolter team’s tips for picking a good company or business name:
- what emotive response does it produce for your customers or clients?
- consider how its pronounced, spelt and how it may flow in general conversation.
- check and triple check that there are no existing companies, businesses or trade marks with a similar name.
- check if the name has been registered as a website domain address.
- think globally and make sure that the name cannot be misinterpreted or mistranslated in another language, and
- does the name reflect your brand and long-term vision for the business?