Business rescue: I found someone else using my business name

Can someone use the same business name as you? We give you the rundown on your rights and the rules. 

In the classic Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons every explosive device, anvil or crate was marked with ACME — some mythical company charged with creating dynamite and other weapons of destruction.

And in WA there is an ACME as well — in fact, there are 12 of them, offering everything from welding services to curtains. While it is not likely ACME the welders will get muddled with ACME the interior design firm, it highlights a common problem for businesses: what if someone else has your name?

Despite what many people think, registering your business name gives no legal rights over that name.

Only a trademark can provide that sort of protection to prevent other businesses from using it.

In most cases, you can search before you register your business name to avoid having exactly the same one registered in your state, but under the national business name registration system, it’s quite possible for businesses with identical names operating across Australia.

It can be more of a problem if you have chosen a common name (you really don’t want to know how many AAA businesses are out there).

So how do you protect the name you want?

In most cases, a trademark for your business name, then your name cannot be used by anyone else in Australia. You can find out more about registering trade marks here. 

Registering a business name will not prevent the name being used by somebody who has registered it as a trademark. Importantly, if someone ELSE has registered the business name as a trademark, you have no right to use it.

A good step before you register your business name (or to check who else might be called something similar to your existing business) is to search the register of business names through ASIC Connect.  You can do a trademark check through IP Australia here. 

It’s better than finding your good name blows up on you later on. Beep Beep.