New national business names registration service

The new national business names registration service (National Register) is due to begin on 28 May 2012, subject to all States and Territories passing the required legislation. Under the new scheme, businesses will only have to register their business name once on the National Register instead of separately in each State or Territory in which they trade. It offers a streamlined and cheaper option for Australian businesses and will make it easier for the general public to check details of businesses with whom they deal.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will administer the National Register which will offer an online application system, an automated business name availability test and lower application and renewal fees.

Existing business name registrations

Existing business name registrations will be automatically transferred to the National Register. If the same business name is registered in more than one State or Territory, the owner can choose to cancel all but one of the registrations. There is also a facility for ASIC to consolidate multiple business name registrations into one entry and to notify the owner of this.

If the owner chooses to maintain multiple registrations for the same business name, they must nominate one principal place of business.

Where existing identical business names are registered by different owners and transferred to the National Register, ASIC will add a geographical (or other) identifier to differentiate the respective businesses. This additional identifier will not form part of the business name and the owner can choose a different identifier to use if it is available.

New business name registrations

New business name applicants need to obtain an ASIC Connect account and an Australian Business Number (ABN) before they can register a national business name. Under the new system, businesses can simultaneously register for an ABN and a national business name in a single online registration process.

Advantages

The new system is substantially cheaper. A business currently operating in each State and Territory may pay fees in excess of $1,000 for three years registration. Under the new scheme businesses will have the option of registering their business name at a cost of $30 for one year or $70 for three years.

The new system is also more transparent and accessible to consumers. Whereas consumers presently have to pay to obtain business names extracts to be able to identify the person(s) or entity behind a business, it will now be possible to search the National Register free of charge for contact and ownership details.

What has not changed

If you are carrying on a business within Australia under a name that is not identical to your own personal name or the name of a company or other entity, you must register that name as a business name.

An application to register a new business name will be refused it if is identical or nearly identical to an existing business or company name.

A business name registration (like a company or domain name registration) does not give the holder any proprietary rights in that name or the exclusive right to use that name. Such rights can only be obtained through the trade mark registration system. While the new online application service includes links to Australian trade marks and domain name searches, it is important to ensure that use of your proposed business name does not contravene the existing rights of others.