Your Business

Can I Lose My Business Name?

As changes to Australia’s National Business Names Register start to have an impact, TGB's Giles Kahl writes about protecting your business name in South Australia.

As changes to Australia’s National Business Names Register start to have an impact, TGB’s Giles Kahl writes about protecting your business name in South Australia. <--break->

A new National Business Names Register was introduced last year, but one of the affects of this will only start to be felt in the next few months, with potentially serious consequences for the unwary.

As has always been the case, if you carry on business under any name other than your own, you must have the business name registered.  If your name is Mary Smith, and you just trade as “Mary Smith”, that need not be registered, but if you trade as “Mary’s Antiques” or even “Mary Smith Antiques”, you must be registered.  

Until last year, you could register your name unless there was a conflict with a similar name in South Australia.  As a result, similar names were often registered to different proprietors in different states.  Under the new system, this is not permissible – if there is a Mary Smith Antiques in Queensland, you won’t be able to register the same name, even if you only trade in SA.

There is an exception for names which were already registered at the time when the new system was introduced.  They can remain registered, but they must be renewed on time (either every year, or every three years, depending on how they were registered, or most recently renewed).  If a business name is not renewed, and is struck off the register for that reason, and there is another similar registered name anywhere in Australia, it may not be possible to re-register the name, and as a consequence the name of the business may have to be changed.  There was some corresponding risk under the “old” system, but only if a similar name was registered in South Australia, which presumably couldn’t happen until after the existing name was struck off.

I understand that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which now has the administration of the register, has not as yet struck off any names due to non-renewal, but will be starting to do this in the near future.  It would thus be prudent for all business name proprietors to check that their registrations are current, and to take steps (such as diarising expiry dates) to ensure that their names are renewed on time.

So when it comes to business names, there is now a much greater risk that the position is “renew it or lose it”!

For further advice or information regarding your business or legal matter contact your nearest TGB office