When choosing your 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 fulfill certain requirements. 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 proprietary limited 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. Use LawPath’s Name Search tool, which is based on ASIC’s Identical Names Check facility, to confirm whether the name is available for registration.

Company names that are acceptable for registration

To be approved as an acceptable name, it must be unique and distinct from all other company names; and should not be false, misleading, offensive, or otherwise illegal matter.

Company names that are unacceptable for registration:

  • If your proposed company name is similar to an existing registered company, then you cannot register you company name and must choose a new unique one. ASIC considers a name to be identical “if it is too similar to an existing registered name once whitespace and certain characters are removed. Pluralisation of the name is also taken into consideration.” i.e. ‘Dollar Shop’ and ‘$ Shop’ or ‘Cat emporium’ and ‘Cats emporium’
  • If the name includes the word ‘consumer’, ‘bank’, ‘ANZAC’, ‘trustee’ or other specified words, or where the name may suggest a misleading connection with government or the Royal Family,it is not allowed to be used in company names without 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 run a search using LawPath’s online trademark solution 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.

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?

If you haven’t decided on a company name yet, you are allowed to use an Australian Company Number (ACN) assigned by ASIC as your company name.

ACN has a unique nine digit identifier and will be used in coexistence with your chosen legal elements as the company name.

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”.

Good luck!

Unsure where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 600+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.