The concept of ‘Business Names’ has come up with two new clients recently. This post outlines what a business name is, how to register one, the costs, checking who holds a business name, and how to transfer the name. All without mentioning that Shakespeare quote, I promise.
What is a business name?
A business name is a name under which a person or entity (e.g. a partnership, trust or company) conducts a business or ‘trades’.
A business name must be registered if it is different to the legal name of that person or entity. Let’s use ‘Jane Smith’ as an example. Her legal name is Jane Smith, so she can trade under that. If she wants to trade under a name like ‘Jane Smith’s Naming Service’, she needs to register that as a business name.
As another example, let’s use the fictional company XYZ Pty Ltd. The legal name is XYZ Pty Ltd, so the company can trade under that name. If the company wants to trade under any different name, e.g. ‘XYZ Widget Sales’, it must register a business name. The more expensive alternative for a company is to change it’s legal name with ASIC for a fee.
A business name is not a trademark. This means that it doesn’t prevent someone else from registering a similar name, and it doesn’t grant you any intellectual property (IP) rights. It also doesn’t affect an existing trademark that someone else owns.
What are the costs?
At the date of writing, registration and renewal both cost $34 for one year or $78 for three years.
The cost is indexed on 1 July every year.
How to register?
Before registering a business name, first apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN). This is a fairly simple, free online process available on the Australian Business Registrar website. You can also apply at the same time for an AUSkey, Tax File Number and other registrations, including GST and PAYG Withholding.
Once you have the ABN, you need to link it to your ASIC Connect account on the ASIC website. You may need to create an ASIC Connect account first.
Inside this account, follow the links to register a business name. The registration process takes around 15-20 minutes, but is fairly simple.
See the ASIC website for more information on registering a business name.
How to check availability or ownership?
There are a number of registers on the ASIC website that you can search for free.
The direct links are complicated and may change, so it’s best to go to the ASIC website and then follow the links (currently on the right hand side of the page) to search the ‘Business Names’ and/or ‘Companies and Organisations’ registers.
The word ‘organisations’ in a register means company names, for example XYZ Pty Ltd.
How to transfer a business name?
Log in to your ASIC Connect account and follow the links to transfer a business name. You will be provided with a transfer number to give to the new owner. ASIC will not refund any registration/renewal fees that you’ve already paid.
The new owner will need to login to their ASIC Connect account (or create one first) and use the transfer number to register the business name. The new owner has four months before the transfer number expires and then the business name can be registered by anyone.
See the ASIC website for more information on transferring a business name.
There are plenty of videos and articles with helpful links on the ASIC website. Or speak to your accountant.