Buying a business | 3 min read

What is a business name?

Last updated: November 27, 2019

A business name is the name or title under which a person, business, or other legal entity, trades and conducts business. It can help customers find, identify and connect with your business. Additionally, it can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

When do you need to register a business name?

You need to register your business if you wish to trade in Australia under a name that is different from your legal name. Once you have registered a business name you can operate in any state or territory, and if you trade under your own name, there’s no need to register a separate business name.

what is a business name?

For more examples of when you should register your business name, and when you don’t need to register your business name click here.

What does a business name have to do with an ABN?

To register a business name you need to either already have an Australian Business Number (ABN), or be in the process of applying for it. Once your business name is registered it will be connected with your ABN, and if you want you can have multiple business names linked to your ABN.

If I buy an existing business can I use their business name?

Yes, if the original owner transfers the business name to your name. This is generally part of the buying process, and the current owner will put in an online application to transfer the business name, when the sale of the business has gone through, you will be provided a transfer number so you can register the business name in your name. If a solicitor or someone else is managing the sale for you, they will provide you the transfer number so the sale of the business can be completed.

If I buy a franchise do I need a business name?

When you buy a franchise you are generally in business under and existing brand name, however, this is not the same as your business or trading name. Just like with any other business owner, as a franchisee you can choose to use your own name, or a company name – it is simply the title under which you will be trading as a legal entity.

Can I change or my business name?

Once you have registered a business name you cannot update or alter it, even if you only want to make a small change. If you decide you want to trade under a different business name you must register a new one. Then, you can either cancel your existing business name, or keep your existing name in case you want to use it in the future, or for another part of your business.

What does a business name not cover?

When you register a business name you are not provided exclusive ownership of your business name. It also does not prevent other people from being able to register and use similar names. To protect a particular business name and gain exclusivity, you need to register it as a trade mark with IP Australia.

Furthermore, registering a business name is not the same as registering a company. Registering a business name does not create a legal entity or provide access to other privileges that are associated with companies.