What's the Difference Between a Business Name and a Trademark?
When starting a new business, you have the option to register for a large number of things, and it can be confusing what each of them means. An ABN, Business Name, Trademark, and Domain Name can all start looking the same with all of the paperwork, and it's difficult to tell what rights each of them gives you.
For example, it's a common misconception that registering your business name will give you the exclusive rights to use it. However, this isn't entirely true. If you want to protect your business's brand completely, you'll instead need to trademark your business name.
So that you can decide whether you need to register a trademark or if your business name registration will do on its own, it's essential to understand the difference between the two.
What is a Business Name?
Your business name is the name your company trades under. It's illegal to trade under a name without registering your business name in the Australian Business Name Register. If you haven't, you're opening your business up to substantial risks. The exception to this is your name, which you can use without registering while in Australia.
Your business name can't be identical or too similar (for example, changing an 'o' to a '0' so they look the same) to an existing registered business name. However, this doesn't stop you or anyone else from registering a name that is close but recognisably different when put side by side. For example, if your business was named "Troy's Electrical Services" and a competitor named themselves "Troy's Electricians", this would be okay.
Importantly, registering your business name does not stop someone who has trademarked the name from using it. In fact, if you continued to trade under that name while they had it trademarked, it's possible that you would face legal trouble instead.
What is a Trademark?
In short, while a business name gives you the right to use a name, a trademark gives you ownership of it. When you register a trademark, you now have a protected brand that distinguishes you from other businesses. Your trademark can be anything from just a name to a logo, to a specific sound or image, to anything else that could distinguish your brand.
Your registered trademark will give you exclusive rights overusing that name and the ability to pursue legal action if anyone infringes on it.
With that said, your trademark is limited to its specific use. For example, if you registered "Troy's Electrical Services", someone else could still register "Troy's Bakery". Even if you both trade under the brand "Troy's". These could be trademarked separately because you both trade in different services because it is clear you are each a unique organisation.
Should I get a Trademark or a Business Name Registration?
Generally, if you want to trademark a business name, you'll also need to register it as a business name. However, the question of whether it's worth it for your organisation to trademark your name if you intend to register it is a more difficult one.
Without trademarking, another organisation can constantly threaten your business by trademarking the name and cutting you off. This is less of an issue for smaller companies with little brand recognition. Still, suppose your organisation becomes a staple of your community or a popular source of your product. In that case, someone else trademarking your name can become a risk and potentially hurt your brand.
Not trademarking your company is a risk, and because the process can take some time, it could be problematic to ignore for too long.
Starting a small business isn't easy. Luckily, you don't have to do it alone. NameCorp can help you get your business ready and off the ground. With business name and ABN registration, trademarking, concierge services, and free membership to Business Australia, we can help you along every step of the process. Learn more here.
NameCorp specialises in delivering fast, effective, and mistake-free business name registrations. Our team of NameCorp business experts have decades of experience working with ASIC and the Australian Government. This means if you’re an Australian business looking to get your business name registered, we can help you get it done quickly, smoothly, and with no messy paperwork required.
Here are some links you might find useful:
- How does business name registration work?
- How do I Choose the Right Business Name?
- Namecorp vs ASIC: How do I register a business name in Australia?
- Does registering my business name stop others from registering it as well?
- Can I register more than one business name using the same ABN?
- Four Reasons You Should Register a Business Name if You're a Sole Trader
- Register your business name
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