A new national online registry of business names is expected to commence this year.

ASIC will take responsibility of this new service, which is part of a governmental initiative to save time and cut costs for people starting new businesses.

Currently, business owners are required to register the name of their business (if they are not trading under their own name) in each State or Territory in which the business operates. Under the new system business owners will only have to register their business name once, regardless of whether or not that business trades in multiple jurisdictions. This will result in substantial savings for many businesses.

Business owners will be able to apply online and in most cases should receive confirmation of registration immediately. Businesses will also be able to make a joint application for a business name and an ABN.

Another benefit of the new national system is that the register will carry out automatic checks for identical or similar company names, so business owners will no longer need to perform these searches.

New registrations will require an ABN in order to register a new business name. Existing registrations will not require an ABN provided that the business name is currently registered on a state register and does not have an ABN.

Existing registered business names will be automatically transferred to the national register.

It is important to keep in mind that:

  • registering a business name does not itself give any proprietary rights in the name; only a registered trade mark provides this kind of protection; and
  • the onus is on the applicant to ensure that the business name does not infringe on anyone else's intellectual property rights.