New efficiencies from national business names register (but no relief for trade mark owners)

The Federal Government has released exposure drafts of its legislation on a national business names registration system.  The proposed new system will give the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) national responsibility for registering, renewing and administering business names for all Australian businesses. 

The Business Names Registration Bill 2011, Business Names Registration (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011 and the Business Names Registration (Fees) Bill 2011 were prepared following a Council of Australian Governments decision where the States and Territories agreed to refer their business names registration powers to the Federal Government.

The new system will harmonise the previously disparate state and territory business name registries.  There will be one standard fee for registration that will be lower than the current fees in nearly all jurisdictions.  The new system will also integrate the business name registration process with the Australian Business Number (ABN) registration process.  The form will pre-fill from one registration to the next.  New businesses will either need to have an ABN or be in the process for applying for an ABN and not have been refused an ABN in order to register a business name.

The public will be able to access some details about a business name on a free, online business names register.  In particular, members of the public will be able to view the name of the entity behind the business name, the entity’s principal place of business and an address for service. For home-based businesses, only their suburb and State or Territory will be publicly displayed.  

Unfortunately for trade mark owners, it will still remain the responsibility of a business to ensure their business name does not infringe on the rights of trade mark owners.  However, there will be a link during the business name registration process to the search function on the trade mark database.  Hopefully this will result in a few less unnecessary letters of demand from trade mark owners to unknowing small businesses.

As is currently the case, you will not be allowed to register business names that are “identical or nearly identical” to a company or business name which has already been registered.  Existing business names will be “grand fathered” into the national register.  So hold onto your business names for now to help obtain the best national coverage.

The intention is that the national business names registration system will start in mid-2012.  Public consultation on the exposure drafts is open until 24 April 2011.

For transactional lawyers, the creation of a single national database means that it will no longer be necessary to engage with the relevant office in each State and Territory, and to pay access fees, as part of the due diligence process.

And if you are an insomniac business owner looking to register your business name, you will be able to register your business names online 24/7 under the new system!

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