Mar 7 2023

Do all Business Names Need to be Registered?

What is a business name? 

A business name is a name or title that people call their business. The business name is either registered to an individual, partnership, company or any other entity that conducts a business in Australia. Some people refer to a business name as a brand name and is created to help people identify the business they are dealing with along with the products and services they are selling.

Business names are used in advertising, sales material such as brochures, vehicle signage and many other sales and marketing mediums or platforms to help create awareness of their brand, find customers and even promote the products and services they are selling.

The business name is also used on administrative documents such as legal agreements, terms of use, invoices, letterheads and even privacy policies.

Most businesses now even use their business name to create social media tags to help promote their business, allowing them to standardise all of their sales and marketing messaging so that the consumer see the same message, tone of voice, style and fonts across all mediums and platforms. They also use the same business name for their domain name or website address.

To register a business name in Australia you require an active ABN number, you will also need this ABN number to register a domain name. (More info about ABN here)

Can I use my name as a business name? 

The short answer is yes, under the Business Names Registration Act 2011 (Cth) (“the Act”), you don’t need to register a business name, if:

  • You are an individual and you are carrying the business under your personal name;
  • You are a corporation and you are carrying the business under the corporation’s name; or
  • You are a partnership and you are carrying the business under the names of all of the partners.

Here are some examples which will give you an idea:

  • Sarah Smith is a sole trader and thinking to start a business under her legal name Sarah Smith. She’s not required to register a business name called “Sarah Smith”. However, if Sarah decides to add another word to that business name e.g. “Sarah Smith Photography”, in this instance she will need to register her business name as “Sarah Smith Photography”.
  • James Brown has a proprietary limited company that’s registered as James Brown Pty Ltd. In this instance, the company doesn’t need to register a business name as it’ll be operating under its own legal name. Additionally, by registering a Pty Ltd company automatically registers the legal name as its business name.
  • In Peter Smith and Jake Thomas wish to start a legal business they are not required to register a business name if they are trading as Peter Smith and Jake Thomas. However, if they wish to call their legal practice Smith & Thomas Solicitors & Associates, then by law they are required to register the business name as “Smith & Thomas Solicitors & Associates”

Do all Business Names Need to be Registered?

When do I need a business name? 

If you decided to operate a business under a particular name other than your own personal name, then it must be registered with the Australian government. The consequences of trading under an unregistered business name are twofold:

  • It is an offence under section 18 of the Business Names Registration Act (Cth) to carry on a business under an unregistered business name. Failure to adhere to this provision will result in a penalty of 30 penalty units ($3300).

All business names in Australia are registered on a national basis and administered by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, allowing your business to operate in any state or territory. So when registering your business name make sure you do so with an ASIC registered agent.

Business Name Search

When you’ve come up with some business name ideas for your new business or side hustle, first thing you’ll need to do is a free business name availability check to make sure someone else does not already have it registered as their own business. As government registered authorities, our online platform is connected live with both the Australian Securities and Invesment Commission and the Australian Tax Office allowing you to register your new business name and ABN, fast, easy and secure.

Simply enter the business name into the search box at the top of the page then follow the instructions, your business name and ABN are then registered in minutes, not weeks, even faster if you’ve already got an active ABN number.

Another thing you’ll need to take into consideration in that your business name does not infringe on any registered trademarks. If you’re unsure call our customer support centre on 1300 006 263 and they’ll be able to do a free trademark search to make sure that you’re all set to register your business name.

Is a business name same as a trading name or legal name? 

The term “trading name” is an older term commonly used when businesses used to register their trading names with the Department of Fair Trading in each state. However, in 2012, ASIC began administering business name on a national basis. Please be aware that if you registered your business name before 28th May 2012, you have until November 2023 to have it moved into the new system and avoid having cancelled and registered by your competitors.

Even today, there are businesses who still use the old trading names, and these are considered unregistered names that businesses still have the right to until November 2023. The terms trading name and business name are commonly used interchangeably. However, trading name is an older term. 

It’s important to note that although the ABN Lookup and Australian Business Register(ABR) currently include unregistered trading names, these names will no longer be displayed come November 2023. From that date onwards, only registered business names will be included.

If your business is affected by the discontinuation of the use of trading names, you have until the 31st of October 2023 to register your trading name as a business name and to provide notice to your business’ suppliers, customers and stakeholders if your business name will differ from your existing trading name.

Trading names do not meet the requirements of a registered business name.

If you want to trade under a specific name, you need to register it as a business name.

What are the benefits of registering a business name? 

A registered business name helps customers find, identify and connect with your business. You can have multiple business names linked to your Australian business number (ABN). Click here to better understand the “Three Benefits of Registering Your Business Name With Namecorp You Don’t Get With ASIC”.

Can someone else use my business name? 

The short answer is yes. Although they cannot register the exact business name word for word, they can register certain aspects of your business name. E.g. if you registered the business name as ‘VERONICA BEDDING SOLUTIONS’, someone else can come along and register ‘VERONICA BEDDING AUSTRALIA’, registering a business name does not give you exclusive rights to the name. However, if you want to have exclusive rights and stop others using your business name in any form, all you will need to do is apply to have it trademarked under the class of product or service in which you operate. A trademark gives you exclusive trading, branding or ownership rights over your business name.


Disclaimer: All information provided on this webpage is general information about our business in Australia, and products and services. Nothing on this webpage is intended to be professional advice and should not be relied on as such. You should obtain specific financial, legal, or other professional advice before relying on the content of this webpage. By not seeking such advice, you accept the risk that the information on this webpage may not meet the specific needs of your business. Our liability is limited to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law in accordance with our website terms and conditions.