Trade Names and Business Names in Australia

A Comprehensive Guide to the difference between an ASIC registration and a trade mark


Choosing the best name for your business is a critical step in establishing both your brand identity and legal presence. However many business owners are initially unaware of the difference between registering your business or company with the government, through an ABN or an ACN, and registering the rights to use that name as a brand to trade under.

The terms ‘trade name’, ‘business name’, and ‘trading name’, each have distinct legal implications. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for ensuring compliance with Australian laws and ensuring that you have the rights to use the name of your brand and protecting against unauthorised use of that brand.

This guide explores the differences between these names, the process for registering them, and how to trade mark a brand in Australia.

What is a Trade Name?

A trade name, also known as a trading name or business trade name, is the name under which a company conducts its business. It is the public-facing name that customers and clients associate with the business. A trade name may differ from the company's legal name, which is registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Importance of Trade Names:

  • Brand Identity: A trade name is central to a business's branding and marketing efforts.
  • Legal Protection: Registering a trade name can provide legal protection and prevent other businesses from using a similar name that could confuse customers.
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    Understanding Business Names

    A business name is the name under which a business operates and is registered with ASIC. It is the official name that appears on legal documents, invoices, and contracts. All businesses operating in Australia, except sole traders who use their personal name, must register a business name.

    Process of Registering a Business Name in Australia

    1. Choose a Unique Name: Ensure the name is unique and not already registered by another entity.
    2. Search Availability: Use the ASIC Business Names Register to check the availability of the desired name.
    3. Register with ASIC: Complete the registration process on the ASIC website, providing necessary details about the business and paying the registration fee.
    4. Renewal: Business name registrations need to be renewed periodically, typically every one or three years.

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    Trading Names Explained

    A trading name, often used interchangeably with trade name, is an outdated term that referred to the name a business used for trading purposes. However, as of 2012, the concept of trading names has been phased out in Australia. Businesses now need to register a business name if they wish to operate under a name other than their legal name.

    Historical Context and Recent Changes:

    • Prior to 2012, businesses could use unregistered trading names.
    • Post-2012, the National Business Names Registration System was introduced, requiring all trading names to be registered as business names with ASIC.

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    Trade Name vs Business Name vs Trading Name

    Understanding the differences between these terms is essential for compliance and branding. Here’s a breakdown:

    • Trade Name: The name a business uses for trading and marketing purposes. It can be different from the registered business name.
    • Business Name: The official name registered with ASIC, used for legal and administrative purposes.
    • Trading Name: An old term now replaced by the business name under the current ASIC regulations.


    • A company legally registered as "XYZ Pty Ltd" may trade under the name "XYZ Solutions," where "XYZ Solutions" is the trade name.
    • Under the new system, "XYZ Solutions " must be registered as a business name.

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    How to Trademark a Name in Australia

    Trademarking a name provides exclusive rights to use the name for your goods and services, offering legal protection against unauthorised use. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

    1. Conduct a Trademark Search: Ensure the name is not already trademarked by another entity using IP Australia's search tool.
    2. Application: Submit a trademark application through IP Australia, providing details about the name, the classes of goods and services, and the applicant.
    3. Examination: IP Australia examines the application to ensure it meets all legal requirements.
    4. Publication: The trademark is published in the Australian Official Journal of Trade Marks, allowing for objections.
    5. Registration: If no objections are raised, the trademark is registered, and the owner receives a certificate of registration.

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    Case Studies and Examples

    Case Study 1:

    • Company: ABC Innovations Pty Ltd
    • Trade Name: ABC Tech Solutions
    • Business Name Registration: Registered as "ABC Tech Solutions" with ASIC.
    • Trademark: Successfully trademarked "ABC Tech Solutions" for technology services, preventing competitors from using a similar name.

    Case Study 2:

    • Company: Green Earth Pty Ltd
    • Trade Name: Green Earth Organics
    • Business Name Registration: Registered as "Green Earth Organics" with ASIC.
    • Trademark: Trademarked the name and logo, ensuring exclusive rights to use them in the organic products market.

    Common Mistakes to Avoid

    1. Failing to Register the Business Name: Ensure all trading names are registered with ASIC to comply with legal requirements.
    2. Ignoring Trademark Registration: Registering a business name does not provide trade mark protection. Consider trademarking your trade name to safeguard your brand.
    3. Not Conducting Thorough Searches: Perform comprehensive searches to avoid conflicts with existing registered names and trademarks.


    • Use ASIC and IP Australia’s search tools.
    • Consult with legal professionals for guidance.
    • Stay updated on changes in business name registration laws.


    Understanding the nuances between trade names, business names, and trading names is vital for Australian businesses. Proper registration and trademarking not only ensure legal compliance but also protect your brand's identity. For personalised assistance with registering or trademarking your business name, contact Baxter IP for expert guidance.

    FAQs Section

    Q:What is the difference between a trade name and a business name?

    A: A trade name is the public-facing name used for trading and marketing, while a business name is the official name registered with ASIC for legal and administrative purposes.

    Q: How do I register a business name in Australia?

    You can register a business name through the ASIC website by ensuring the name is unique, completing the registration form, and paying the applicable fee.

    Can I trademark a business name in Australia

    A: Yes, you can trademark a business name by applying through IP Australia. This provides exclusive rights to use the name for your goods and services.

    Q:What happened to trading names in Australia?

    A: The concept of trading names was phased out in 2012, and businesses must now register their trading names as business names with ASIC.

    Q: How long does it take to trademark a name in Australia?

    A: The trademark registration process can take several months, which includes the time for examination, publication, and any potential objections.

    By following this comprehensive guide, you can navigate the complexities of trade names, business names, and trade marks in Australia, ensuring your business is both well-protected and compliant with the law. For expert assistance, reach out to Baxter IP today.

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