How Do I Choose My Company Name? (2021 Update)
Forming a new company requires a lot of important decisions. Read on to find out how to choose a company name.
To choose a company name, you need to think carefully. There are specific legal issues to consider before you move forward. You will need to register your company name with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and to meet certain standards. By taking into account all the relevant factors, you can identify the right company name.
How is a company name different from a business name?
It is important to note that a company name is not the same as a business name (trading name). A company name is a legal name such as ‘LawPath Operations Pty Ltd’, which appears on all official documents and legal papers. A company name can be different to your business name, examples include sole traders using their own name or the company name showing the name of a partnership, a private company or an incorporated association. A business name is what you are know by customers, such as ‘LawPath’. When choosing a company name you do not have to use your business name. For more information see our blog post ‘what is the difference between a business name and a company name’.
A company name availability
First of all, it is necessary to determine if your company name is accessible. ASIC’s Identical Names Check facility, can help to confirm whether the name is available for registration and not already taken. Some key rules set by ASIC for a company name include:
- Certain exceptions for registering a company name identical to an already existing company.
- Limited list of characters.
- The ability to reserve a name.
- The name must show legal status.
- Does not affect trademarks or other intellectual property rights.
Company names that are acceptable for registration
An acceptable name should be unique and distinct from all other company names. It should not be false, misleading, offensive, or otherwise illegal.
Company names that are unacceptable for registration:
- If your proposed company name is similar to an existing company, then you cannot register you company name. You must choose a new unique company name. ASIC considers a name to be identical “if it is too similar to an existing registered name once whitespace and certain characters are removed”. That is, ‘Dollar Shop’ and ‘$ Shop’.
- Names including the words ‘consumer’, ‘bank’, ‘ANZAC’, ‘trustee’ or where the name may suggest a misleading connection with government or the Royal Family, is not allowed in company names. The exception is the approval of a specified Minister or government agency. The complete list of reserved words and the relevant ministerial bodies can be found in the following ASIC document.
- Names that may be obscene or offensive to the public are also unacceptable for registration by ASIC.
The possible negative impacts of identical or similar company names
It is strongly recommended to search ASICs website to find out whether your proposed company name is identical to a registered/pending trademark or not. Even if ASIC reserves or registers your company name, a person or corporation with a similar registered name may take action against you. Intellectual property rights are paramount.
Reserving a name
If you want to ascertain whether your intended company name will not be taken by another person before you are ready to register it as a company, you have an option to reserve a name with ASIC. If ASIC approves the company name, ASIC will reserve it for you for two months.
What if you don’t have a proposed name for your new company?
Your Australian Company Number (ACN) assigned by ASIC will be your company name where no name has been decided on.
ACN is a unique nine digit number and will be used alongside your chosen legal elements as your company name in this case.
Say that your ACN number is “000 000 000” and the legal elements you chose when registering your company were “Pty Ltd”, then your company name would be “000 000 000 Pty Ltd”.