In brief

Australian businesses will be able to register business names on a national basis online under proposed new legislation:

  • only one application will be needed to register a business name throughout Australia.
  • existing business name registrations are proposed to be automatically transferred from state and territory registers onto a national register.  

Australian businesses will be able to register business names on a national basis online under proposed new legislation. The Business Name Registration Bill 2010 (Cth) is expected to be introduced later in the year, although a commencement date has not yet been announced.

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. While the details are yet to be specified in the Bill, the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR) 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. DIISR also proposes that separate businesses with identical names across the states and territories will be identified on the national register with a geographical marker, although the business name will apply nationally (and not include the geographical marker).
  4. Business owners will 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. Existing businesses may renew their business name without an ABN.
  6. Businesses may apply to suppress certain contact details.

What these reforms mean for businesses

  1. Businesses 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. If a business has previously looked at registering a business name in all jurisdictions but has been unable to because there is an interstate conflicting business name, prompt registration of the business name in a state where there is no conflict should allow a national registration of that name when the national register comes into place.
  4. As always:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.