Today I want to clear up a big business myth that’s been doing the rounds for ages: you don’t need to register your business name once you have an ABN. This is simply not true. Yes, once you have an ABN you can legally start trading. But that’s not the whole story.
Your ABN is registered under your name if you are a sole trader. For example, Sue Jones. But you might want your business name to be SJ Photography. Since you want to trade under a business name that varies from your ABN, it’s a legal obligation to register the name you are trading under.
Requirements differ slightly based on your trading name and also sole trader vs company set-up.
For clarity, here’s a quick checklist:
- Sue Jones (registered ABN as Sole Trader) trading as SJ Photography: business name registration required
- Sue Jones (registered ABN as Sole Trader) trading as Sue Jones: business name registration NOT required
- Sue Jones & Co Pty Ltd (registered Company ABN) trading as SJ Photography: business name registration required
- Sue Jones & Co Pty Ltd (registered Company ABN) trading as Sue Jones & Co: business name registration NOT required
If you want to trade as a name different to your ABN name, you need to register it. As for which structure is best for you (Sole Trader -v- Company) that’s one of the First Steps you need to take when starting out and you need professional advice from your Tax Agent and Solicitor on that, my podcast episode The First Steps For Your New Small Business has some great tips and checklists for you.
If in doubt, always check with your local government or business lawyer for clarity.
How to register your business name
The good news is, registering your business name isn’t a lengthy or scary process! ASIC Connect is the direct body for business name registration and you can do the whole thing online yourself.
Firstly, you’ll want to check your business name to make sure your name is unique. You can’t register a business name if it already exists. Once you’ve completed your relevant checks (Asic, Google, website availability, trademarks to name a few) you can proceed to registration.
Registration is easy!
- Go to the ASIC Connect website and create an account
- Select ‘Business Name’, and add your ABN + proposed business name
- Select the registration period (1-3 years available)
- Add your personal details and business address
- Confirm and await approval
***Note, this process doesn’t include trademarking your business name. More on that below!
Hot Tip – do this directly through ASIC and not a third party. They will charge you more and it’s not needed. Same goes for renewals, do your business name renewals direct with ASIC.
Trademarking vs Business Name
Registering your business name is a legal obligation while trademarking your business name is a choice. A trademark protects your business and other aspects depending on which way you do it.
For example, say Sue Jones trading as SJ Photography stumbled upon a new business named SJ Photography & Films. If her name is trademarked, she *may* be able to issue a cease and desist letter forcing the new business to change its name or be faced with consequences.
If her name is NOT trademarked and SJ Photography & Films HAS trademarked their business name, Sue Jones could be issued a cease and desist and be forced to rebrand her whole business. Even if she has been trading for longer and she’d registered her business name with ASIC.
You should look into trademarking your business name if:
- You are in this for the long haul
- You would like to protect your business
Additionally, owning all domains relevant to your business is a smart move. Ie: sjphotography.com.au / .au / .net.au / .com and so on. This protects your business from other businesses snagging them.
*All trademark applications are unique and the above scenario should be taken as a possible outcome only.
For legal advice in relation to your business, I can’t recommend Tracey from TM Solicitor enough!
I hope this blog has helped you dispel some common myths surrounding your legal obligations surrounding your business name.