Disputes about similar company names

This information sheet (INFO 199) explains what to do about disputes arising between two companies that have similar names.

Disputes often arise when one company believes that another company’s name is too similar to their own. A company or business often places a high value on its name as it is linked to its reputation. Therefore, a company might be concerned about customer confusion and potential damage to brand or reputation when two company names are similar.

Although the law prevents registration of an identical name to an existing registered company or business name, it does not prevent registration of a similar name.

A company name registration is not the same as a trademark and does not protect your trademark rights. A business that wants to protect its reputation against people using a similar name should consider registering a trademark or take private legal action to prevent people from using the similar name. This information sheet explains what you can do about resolving such disputes.

What you should do

To resolve a dispute about similar company names, there are a number of options available to you.

If you are concerned that a company is using a similar name to your own 

You can use the Check Name Availability search on ASIC Connect to check if the similar company name is registered.

If the company is not registered, the person may be trading under a business name. You can use the Organisations and Business Names search on ASIC Connect.

Seek legal advice

It is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression.

If you think that a company with a similar company 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.

If you are concerned that a third party is deliberately giving the impression that they are related to your financial services or credit services businesses 

ASIC would like to hear from you. You can report your concerns through our online reporting misconduct form.

If you have had dealings with a financial services or credit services provider and are concerned that they have misrepresented themselves, you should check ASIC’s List of unlicensed companies.

If you are concerned that a company in liquidation has started operating under another similar name 

You should read ASIC’s information about illegal phoenix activity.

If you think you have dealt with a company that is engaged in illegal phoenix activity, ASIC would like to hear from you. You can report your concern through our online reporting misconduct form.

Get more information 

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.

ASIC and disputes about similar company names

ASIC is responsible for registering company names. We will register all company names unless the Corporations Act 2001 prohibits using the name, or there is an identical name on our register. You can find out more information on the restrictions the law has placed on the use of a number of names.

If you are in a dispute over a commercial interest or use of a similar name, ASIC expects that the parties will resolve the conflict with the benefit of legal advice. We cannot help you to protect your commercial interests.

Where can I get more information?

This is Information Sheet 199 (INFO 199), issue in February 2015. Information sheets provide concise guidance on a specific process or compliance issue or an overview of detailed guidance.

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Last updated: 05/02/2015 12:00