On 17 August 2011, the Commonwealth Government introduced a package of new legislation into Federal Parliament to establish and administer a new national business name registration system.

The changes resulting from the new legislation will affect all persons and legal entities carrying on a business in Australia.

The current systemfor registration of business names

Currently, a business must register its business name separately in each State or Territory it trades in (unless the business is trading under an individual’s or company name). This has meant that businesses are subject to different legislation, procedures and fees when registering a name in each jurisdiction.

The new systemfor registration of business names

The national business names registration system is expected to be operational from mid-2012, and will allow persons to register a business name on a single national database.

Key features of the new legislation include:

  • business names will be registered nationally, rather than on a State/Territory basis  
  • the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will be responsible for establishing and maintaining the new registration system  
  • businesses will be able to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and a national business name in a single integrated online registration process  
  • business name applicants will be required to have an ABN or be in the process of applying for an ABN
  • a business name can be registered for a period of one year for a registration fee of $30, or three years for a registration fee of $70, and  
  • decisions made by ASIC under the legislation will be reviewable on application to ASIC or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  

What do the changes mean for your business?

The changes will affect businesses as follows:

  • businesses with existing business names registered in a State or Territory will have their registration automatically migrated to the new system  
  • if an identical business name has been registered by different persons in different jurisdictions, ASIC may insert a distinguishing mark to distinguish between the names (e.g. ‘John Smith Electrical’ may be distinguished by ‘John Smith Electrical Sydney’ and ‘John Smith Electrical Melbourne’)  
  • identical business names registered in multiple jurisdictions will be consolidated into one registration, and  
  • existing business name registrations that expire following the introduction of the national system will need to be renewed through the national system.  

Upon introduction of the new system, ASIC will issue business name registrants with relevant communications relating to their registrations, renewals and fees.  

Other considerations for your business

Business name registration will not guarantee your exclusive use of the business name in connection with particular goods or services. Such exclusivity may be obtained via the process of registering a trade mark, which operates independently of the business name registration process.