Photo by Danielle MacInnes

An important thing too many startups forget to do



Just because you’ve registered a business or company name doesn’t mean you hold the legal rights to that name

In the hype of starting a new business, it’s easy to forget to do something as simple as double checking that no one else is using your proposed business’ name. This is important given that just because you’ve registered the business or company name doesn’t mean you have the legal rights to trade under that name. For those of you who might need a refresher, here’s the difference between a business name and a trade mark.

Even if you’ve registered a business or company name, you should always:

Avoid Infringement

Avoid infringing anyone else’s intellectual property rights (by using a name that has been registered as a trade mark)

Protect your IP rights

Maximise your level of intellectual property protection (e.g. through trade mark registration)

Demonstrate your IP rights are protected

Indicate to other parties (e.g. competitors) that your intellectual property rights are protected to reduce the probability of over brands using your business’ name

How to find out if the name is used in Australia?

To check whether your use of a specific name may infringe another’s rights (i.e. a registered trade mark), just search for similar names at this link. You can even upload your proposed logo (if you have one) to see whether any other trade marks have been registered that relate to your business.

How to find out if the name is used in a country other than Australia?

Internationally it can be a little bit more complicated when searching to see if a specific name is protected as a trade mark. Rather than checking each individual country’s trade mark database, the quickest and easiest way is to check the World Intellectual Property Organization’s brand database here (which is a centralised trade mark data base covering most applications and registrations).

What if some has registered a trade mark in Australia?

Generally, you should not use that name in business to avoid infringing that other party’s intellectual property rights. Even where you provide different goods or services to that party (or your name is only similar to a competing business), it’s always best practice to create a new and unique name to avoid any risk of the other party claiming you’re trying to leverage from the their goodwill or deceive consumers into thinking your affiliated or associated, or even are, that other party.

What if someone has registered a trade mark in a country other than Australia?

Trade mark and competition and consumer laws vary from country-to-country. So, it really depends on what type of business you’re running, and the business that the other party is running. For example, if you’re both selling products or services online, then the recommendation would be different to if you’re running a local plumbing business and the other person is running a local gym.

The bottom line

It’s always best practice to have a unique and distinct name that isn’t used by anyone anywhere in the world. However, given that’s (practically speaking) often difficult to achieve, at minimum the name should be substantially different to any other businesses in Australia and shouldn’t be registered as a trade mark by any other party.


If you’re not too sure whether your proposed business name is too similar to another name, or would like any help in confirming that you can actually use your business name (without infringing any other party’s rights), contact us.

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