The National Business Names Register

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The new National Business Names Register will commence on 28 May 2012 under the administration of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (“ASIC”). Here is how it will affect your business:

1. A National System

If your business name is currently registered in multiple States, it will now be registered nationally, and you will only need to pay one renewal fee. The new system will also only require you to register a new business name once to cover all States.

2. ABN Compulsory

You will now need to have an Australian Business Number (ABN), or be in the process of applying for one, in order to apply for a business name.

3. Distinguishing Names

If your business has an identical name as another business operating in another state or territory, ASIC will provide additional information on the public register to differentiate affected businesses. This may be the State or Territory your business name was first registered in. The identifier will not form part of your business name, but is used to allow people to distinguish between identical business names on the public register.

4. Renewals

If you already have a business name registered, you will not see a significant change in the system (aside from the fact that your renewal letters will be on a new letterhead). ASIC will contact you when registration is due for renewal if the renewal date is after 28 May 2012. If the renewal falls due between now and 28 May 2012 you should contact your state authority to renew the name under the current system.

5. Registration Fees

Registration fees will be significantly less under the new system: $30 for a one year registration and $70 for a three year registration (currently $133.60 and $255.60 respectively).

6. Ease of Access

One of the significant benefits that businesses will see from the new system will be ease of access to all of their corporate documentation in the one place. For instance, if you have a company registration, business name, or multiple business names registered, you will be able to align the renewal dates for all of those registrations under the new system.

Trade marks

From my experience, clients often make the mistake of assuming a registered business name is enough to secure the ownership of the business’ intellectual property.

It is important to remember however that registration of a business, company or domain name does not give you any proprietary rights to ownership of that name. If you require exclusive use of your business name, you should register it as a trade mark.

A registered trade mark under the Trade Marks Act 1995 gives you the exclusive legal right to use, license and sell your intellectual asset in Australia. The owner of a trade mark can apply for its registration. The registration period initially lasts for 10 years and can be continued indefinitely providing that you pay renewal fees.

It is also important that you use your trade mark—other applicants can apply to have your trade mark deregistered if you haven’t used it for more than three years.

ASIC Roadshow

ASIC is hosting a national business names roadshow to help business name holders and industry professionals understand the new business names register.

The roadshow will visit all capital cities between 17 April and 16 May 2012.

If you have any questions about your business name or intellectual property, please contact me.