Disputes about similar business names

What are disputes about similar business names?

Disputes sometimes arise between business owners over the use of similar business names. These disputes may arise over concerns that similar business names are confusing customers, or when a business owner considers they have a legal right to the exclusive use of a particular business name.

ASIC may not always be able to help you in resolving these disputes and you may need to seek your own remedies.

ASIC and disputes about similar business names

From 28 May 2012, ASIC became responsible for the registration, management and administration of business names under the Business Names Registration Act 2011 (Business Names Act). There are rules that prevent the registration of a name that is identical or nearly identical to an already registered business name or company name.

Note: See the Business Names Act and the Business Names Registration (Availability of Names) Determination 2015 (Names Determination).

However, in some circumstances, there is nothing to stop the registration of two similar business names. Registering a business name:

  • does not stop another person from registering a similar name
  • does not give you the exclusive right to use the name or part of the name
  • will not prevent somebody who has registered it as a trademark using the name.

If someone wants to register a name that is similar to your business name, they may still be able to register it despite the similarity. The relevant consideration is whether the proposed name is identical or nearly identical to an already registered business name under the Business Names Act and the Names Determination.

Here are some examples:

Business names

Similar

Identical or nearly identical

The Pretty Cupcake / Pretty Cupcakes

Yes

Yes

Mike's Bikes / Mike's Bikes and Skates

Yes

No

Creative@Work / Kre8tive at Work

Yes

Yes

John's Bakehouse / John's Bakery

Yes

Yes

John's Patisserie / John's Bakery

Yes

No

More information on the test used to determine business name availability.

What you should do

If you would like to resolve a dispute about similar business names, there are a number of options available to you.

Seek legal advice

If you think that a business with a similar business name is confusing customers or infringing your right to the use of a name, there may be private legal options available to you. We recommend you seek legal advice.

If you are unsure about how to access legal advice, contact the Law Society in your state or territory.

Ask for a review of an ASIC decision to register a name

If you believe that there is a real risk of substantial detriment to you because of the registration of a business name, you may be able to ask ASIC to review our decision to register that business name.

For more information, see Request a review of an ASIC decision.

Get more information

A business name registration is not the same as a trademark and does not protect your trademark rights. For more information on trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property rights, visit the IP Australia website.

For more information on competition and fair trade, contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Where can I get more information?

This is Information Sheet 187 (INFO 187), issued in December 2013. Information sheets provide concise guidance on a specific process or compliance issue or an overview of detailed guidance.

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Last updated: 20/10/2017 01:52