In brief

  • ASIC's national business names register is expected to open on 28 May 2012
  • business owners should check that current names are validly registered before the introduction of the nationalised system.

ASIC’s new national business names registration service is expected to open on 28 May 2012, subject to legislation passing through state parliaments.

The Business Names Registration Act 2011 (Cth) and related legislation implements the proposed changes outlined in our earlier article1. As outlined in the previous article, Australian businesses will be able to register business names on a national basis online under the new legislation.

Key changes

  1. Currently, registration of a business name is required in each state and territory in which the business operates. Under the new system, only one application will be needed to register a business name throughout Australia.   
  2. ASIC proposes that existing business name registrations will be automatically transferred from the current state and territory registers to the national register monitored by ASIC. 
  3. ASIC may identify separate businesses with identical names across the states and territories on the national register with a distinguishing word (such as a geographical marker), although the business name will apply nationally (and not include the distinguishing word). 
  4. Business owners will generally be able to register and renew their business name online for a period of one or three years. 
  5. All newly registered business names must have an ABN, which business owners can apply for at the same time as registering their business name. 
  6. Businesses may apply to suppress certain contact details.

What these changes mean for businesses

  1. Business owners should check that their current business names are validly registered before the introduction of the nationalised system. 
  2. If a state or territory registered business name is accidentally allowed to lapse it may not be possible to re-register that business name due to conflicts with other business names that have rolled over to the national register. 
  3. As always:
    • if a business is using a name or brand in connection with particular goods and services, it should consider applying to register that name or brand as a trade mark. Trade mark registrations are in most cases a better way of protecting your intellectual property than relying on common law reputation associated with a business name to prevent a business in another state from using that name or brand. Trade mark registrations generally apply nationally. 
    • if you are using a new business name, you should have a trade mark search conducted to assess the risks the use of the name may infringe third party rights.