Should you trademark your business name?
Updated: Mar 25
Written by Catherine Micallef
What is a business name?
A business name is the name under which you conduct your business. It identifies who you are to your customers and other businesses. You cannot register a business name that is identical or too similar to the registered name of another Australian business or company.
Registering a business name will not stop someone who has registered the name as a trademark from using it. In fact, using a business name that is similar to someone else’s registered trade mark could cause you legal difficulties. We recommend that a trade mark search is undertaken before deciding on a business name.
The obligation to register a business name is separate to protecting any intellectual property rights in a name or brand, such as registering a trade mark.
Having a registered business name or a company name does not, by itself, give you any intellectual property rights in that name.
If you want to protect that name in the best possible way, you should register it as a trade mark.
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a sign used or intended to be used to distinguish goods or services dealt with or provided in the course of trade by a person or organisation, from goods or services dealt with or provided by any other person or organisation.
A sign includes any of the following or any combination of the following: letter, word, name, signature, numeral, device, brand, heading, label or ticket, aspect of packaging, shape, colour, sound or scent. This is a non-exhaustive list of the things that may be trademarks.
Accordingly, a logo and any word marks may properly operate separately as a trademark. Often, you will use them in close association with each other. However your rights are best advanced by registering both of these as separate trademarks.
Registering a trade mark with IP Australia gives you exclusive rights to your business name in Australia. If you find a trademark similar to yours which already exists, it may be possible for both trademarks to coexist if the goods and services they relate to are different.
Benefits of registration
Broadly speaking, once your trademark has been registered, you will obtain an Australia-wide monopoly for use of that trade mark as a trade mark in respect of the goods or services for which registration was granted.
You will not obtain this right if you use your mark as a business name, domain name, or company name without registering it as a trademark.
If you have any questions about trade marks or business names please contact our office on (03) 9311 8911 to discuss further.