24th Mar 2017| by Brands to life

The difference between trade marks and business names

Why trade mark your business name?

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? Owning your name can be a little confusing.

So you’ve arrived at a name for your business AND you want to trade under that name too. I.e. you want it to become your brand name. It’s memorable, on brand and probably took some time to come up with. Well done.

But did you know that a business name is only used to identify your business entity. Registering your business name won’t give you full rights over actually using that name to trade with. Only by trade marking the name will you have full rights to trade under it.

You need to register your business name of course and if you are going to trade under that name, you should consider trade marking that name as well.

Registering a business name is a legal obligation, if you choose to identify your business with a name that is different to the name of the legal entity that owns the business.

Registering a trade mark is a choice you make as part of a branding strategy for your products and services.

A trade mark and a business name have different purposes and protects businesses in different ways. Here it is explained in a little more detail from the Australian Government Business website Business.gov.au and some extra details from us.


Business name:

A business name is the name under which your business operates and is connected to your Australian Business Number (ABN).

You only need to register a business name if you are trading under a name that isn’t your own personal name.

Registration of your business name registers it nationally. You only need to register once even if you trade in multiple states.

You cannot register a business name that is identical or too similar to a business name registered to another Australian business or company.

Registering a particular name does not stop another person from registering a similar name.

Registering a business name will not stop someone who has registered the name as a trade mark from using it (unless you have prior use and a reputation in the marketplace).

A business name does not give you legal rights to that name. This means that if someone else uses your business name for their business, you don’t have any rights to stop them.

The obligation to register a business name is separate to protecting any intellectual property rights in a name or brand, such as registering a trade mark.


Trade mark:

A trade mark legally protects your name and stops others from trading with it.

When you register a trade mark in Australia you get exclusive use of that trade mark throughout Australia.

A trade mark is protected in all Australian states and territories for an initial period of 10 years.

If you need exclusive use of your business name, it is recommended that you register it as a trade mark.

So, don’t get caught out. You need to register a business name of course, but if you want to trade under that name, best you check to see that you can trade mark it too.



  • The following are some helpful links provided on the Australian Government Business website so you can do a little investigating yourself (or we can put you onto some good IP lawyers who can help you with the process of trade marking).