Until now, each State and Territory has had its own regulations dealing with business names. On 28 May 2012, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) will take over national responsibility for the registration of business names.
When the new register commences, new business names can be registered via an online portal on the ASIC website. To register, you will need an ABN for the business. The ASIC website will allow you to register for both an ABN and business name at the same time. ASIC is estimating that the process should take 15-20 minutes. Payment of the registration fee can be made online with a credit card or through Bpay. Registration costs depend on the period of registration. A one year registration will cost $30 and 3 years will be $70. These fees are significantly cheaper than the current Queensland based fees, which are around four times the cost.
As has always been the case, before you register a business name, you must search the business name register. This is to ensure the name is available. Before progressing with an application for a business name, the ASIC portal will require you to conduct a search to ensure that your name is not too similar to any other business name. If it is similar, it may be rejected.
The ASIC portal will also give you the ability to update your details to ensure the business names register is kept up to date. This has been a common problem in the past, with business owners changing their address, but not advising the relevant authorities. Renewal notices go out to the wrong address – the business name is not renewed and then lapses. We commonly find that our clients are unaware that their business names have been deregistered after failing to notify the relevant authorities their address has changed. This is a dangerous position to be in, as any other person can use the same name to register their business once a business name registration expires and is not renewed.
So what about existing business name registrations? If you have a current business name registration, you do not have to do anything. Your registration will automatically transition from the State based register to the ASIC register on the change over date. To deal with any initial issues during the transition period, ASIC has determined that it will provide additional information on its database where two identical or similar business names come across from the various State registers. So if you have a business named “ABC Services” in Queensland, and another entity has registered the same name in Victoria, when they transition to the new register, ASIC will provide details on the register to differentiate the businesses (probably by way of the business location by State).
Registering your business name is a vital part of operating your business. Not only is it a legal requirement, it also protects your intellectual property. If you require advice on any matter relating to your business name, please ask for our assistance.