We have previously written about the difference between business names and trade marks. Business names are separate from trade marks and you must register a business name if you are trading under a different name from you or your company’s name. You may register business names at your state’s respective Office of Fair Trading. In New South Wales this is the NSW Office of Fair Trading. Registration of business names do not give you ownership of that name, it only gives you permission to trade under the registered name. It is advisable to also trade mark your business name.
Because registration is at a state level there is nothing preventing a competitor in another state to register the same business name in that state, and this may potentially stop you from being able to trade in that state under that business name.
Fortunately in the last few years the Australian Federal Government has been considering the system. In 2012 ASIC will take over from the state system and will start managing and administering a National Business Names Register. All old business names registration will be transitioned over – where there is a conflict there will be a further notation indicating where the business name was originally registered.