Guidelines for guarding your new business name

Guidelines for guarding your new business name

Picking the right name for your business or company is an important aspect of beginning a new venture or revamping your current one. Ideally you want to choose a name that captures the public’s attention, is easy to remember and adequately reflects your brand. A great business or company name can certainly contribute to your success. And once your venture is successful, your name can be considered a valuable asset. Just think of big name brands – like Apple, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Samsung and so on – who’ve attained global success; their names are an invaluable and integral part of the relevant company’s public profile. Equally as important as picking the right name, is protecting it so that no other business, company or individual can use it. Or catch a “free ride” based on the goodwill you’ve built up around your name. Worst case scenario – if you don’t take steps to protect your business or company name – is that another entity legally claims “your name” forcing you to relinquish it along with all the public branding and goodwill you’ve spent time and effort creating. In order to avoid such an unfortunate scenario, we’ve laid out the following guidelines to assist you with guarding your business name.

What’s In A Business Name?

Picking a name that suits your business is no easy task. Is it better to go with a trendy name, or one that’s more traditional? Should it be straightforward and tell the public what your business is about, or have an air of mystery? Typically, the best business names fit the brand image, so consider what type of business you run and who your target audience is, and go with a name that reflects your place in the market. Remember, your name is an opportunity to distinguish your business from its competitors, so try to ensure it stands out – and for the right reasons.

Unless you plan on using your personal name as your business name, or you’re already trading under an existing company name, you are obliged to register your new business name in every state and territory in which you intend to trade. Because these registers are state-based, it’s possible there will be another business with the same name as yours already registered to operate in a neighbouring state. You’ll still be able to register your business name however, as simply registering a business name doesn’t bestow the owner of the other business with any proprietary rights.

Registering the same business name will be an issue though if:

  • The other business with the same name is already registered in the state or territory where you wish to trade;
  • The business name you’ve chosen is already a registered trademark.

A Company Name For Keeps

Should you plan to start a company – as opposed to a business – your name needs to reflect your venture’s legal status, for example “Pty” or “Pty Ltd”.

In this case it would be wise to check in advance that the company name you’d like to use:

  • Hasn’t already been registered in the state or territory where you plan to trade
  • Isn’t too close to an existing company name.

Be advised, you also need to register your company with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. The Commission will then issue you a unique Australian Company Number (ACN) plus a Certificate of Registration. You can visit the Australian Securities & Investments Commission website to learn more about how to begin a company, including how to register a company name.

Be aware however, that registering your company name – as with registering your business name –doesn't bestow you with any proprietary rights. The only way to protect your company or business name and secure its exclusive use, is to register it as a trademark.

Trademark Protection

Registering your business or company name as a trademark is really your only sure-fire way to protect it and prevent others from using it without your express permission. A trademark is essentially a distinctive “sign” connected specifically with your business or company’s trade. This “sign” may be a: word; slogan; letter; number; logo; shape; colour; sound; smell; character; other marketing point; or any combination of these.

As trademarks can be pivotal to a brand’s marketing strategy and consequent success – take for instance McDonald’s, Canon and Starbucks – they can be considered a valuable asset. So while registering a trademark isn’t obligatory, it is highly recommended. Plus, trademarking your business or company name gives you the added assurance of legal protection against its unauthorised use.

To register your business or company name as a trademark, contact IP Australia. IP Australia is the government agency in charge of administering intellectual property rights including trademarks, patents, designs and plant breeders’ rights.

Name Your Domain

In today’s competitive market having an online presence is practically mandatory for businesses and companies alike. And acquiring a business-related domain name and website platform is really relatively simple. Just bear in mind you never actually “own” your registered domain name. Rather you have a licence to use said name for a particular time period, providing you meet the eligibility criteria and keep your registration account up-to-date. To register a new business or company domain name, contact any one of the Australian Domain Name Administrator’s accredited registrars.

Picking the perfect name for your business or company is no mean feat. So when you do hit on the right fit be sure to take appropriate measures to protect what may just become an invaluable asset.

Want to know more about guarding your business name? Require assistance with the registration and/or trademarking process? Contact SMART Business Solutions today.

Want to grow your business & improve cash flow?

You need SMART solutions for YOUR business, not just annual tax compliance! Get the SMART team working with you. Call SMART Business Solutions today on 03 5911 7000 or reception@smartbusinesssolutions.com.au.

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