The National Business Name Register: All you need to know


Choosing a business name may be a mundane experience that provides a perfunctory label for your product or service, or it can be an inspired piece of branding that will help fast-track your business into consumers’ minds.


Whatever the merits of your business name, from May 28 the process of registering it in Australia has undergone a significant change.


The new Business Name Register, administered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, sweeps away the need to document your brand in each state when you launch.


So what does this change mean for you? StartupSmart comes up with the answers.


What’s happening exactly?


As part of the Business Names Registration Act 2011, ASIC has become responsible for registering all Australian business names in a national, rather than state-by-state, basis.


Until now, each state and territory has had its own business name system. This has meant plenty of administrative – and cost – headaches if you want to extend your brand beyond state borders.


For example, if you’re starting up in Brisbane, you previously had to register with Queensland Office of Fair Trading. If you plan to operate this business under the same name in, say, Sydney, you also had to register it with NSW Office of Fair Trading.


The new National Business Name Register does away with this state-based system. Your business will now be listed on an Australian-wide database.


My God. So I need to contact ASIC as soon as possible to keep my name then?


Woah, hold your horses. Your business name hasn’t vanished from the records in a puff of smoke.


As ASIC points out on its website: “If your business name was registered in a state or territory before May 28, 2012, you do not need to do anything until it is time to renew your business name.”


“Your business name will be automatically transferred to the national register, provided it is not subject to an appeal or other outstanding matter.”


So far, ASIC has transferred a mind-boggling 80 million business name records from the states and territories to the national register. This includes 1.6 million existing business names and 17 million address records.


This list is rather more inclusive than some of the state and territory regimes, some of which didn’t allow certain ventures to hold a business name.


In contrast, the ASIC database will include unincorporated entities that are entitled to hold an ABN, including partnerships, trusts and joint ventures.


ASIC will let you know a couple of months in advance of your business name expiry, when you’ll deal exclusively with them, rather than lots of different state bodies.


If you haven’t registered or even decided upon a name for your start-up yet, you can search for business name availability and apply online here.


What if there are multiple names on the register?


Good question.


There’s a decent chance that you’ve registered your business’ name in several different states. In this case, each one has been transferred to the ASIC database.


You may wish to renew and keep all of these identical names or, more likely, cancel all of them except one.


You can do this without incurring a fee. The best first step is to check that your details have transferred correctly to the ASIC database by going here.