The hardest part of choosing a new business name is to find a good one that’s not already taken. This isn't just from a branding perspective - it's also important from the perspective of avoiding potential disputes. The only way to be sure your name is unique is by conducting thorough conflict checks.
Although you might think a Google search and domain name checks should reveal all potential conflicts, that’s not necessarily the case. Your search will need to go further if you want to be sure. Below are our tips to help get you started.
Step 1: Brainstorm a list of similar names
Your name doesn’t have to be identical to an existing name to cause trouble.
A reasonably close resemblance can be enough to cause a problem for your business once it is up and running. This means that when you begin conducting your business name search, you need to include names that are similar to your preferred name. This is particularly important when you are thinking of incorporating a common word into your name.
For example, say you are a project management business and you’re thinking of calling yourself ‘Blue Sky Projects’. Your search should include things like ‘Blue Sky Project Management’, ‘Blue Sky Constructions’, ‘Clear Sky Projects’, ‘Blue Sky PM’, ‘Sky Blue Projects’ and so on. The broader your search, the more reliable your results are likely to be.
Step 2: Internet searches
By now, you have probably already had a go at running a business name search for your desired name. It is now time to systematically check off each name from the list you have created against a range of sources.
The important thing is to be thorough. For example, in Google, look beyond the first few pages of your search results. Make sure you search social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
And again, remember to search broadly – not just for your exact name, but also for similar names.
Step 3: Trade mark search
Conducting a trade mark search takes seconds and is free. You can do it yourself, here.
Trade mark searches are important for at least two reasons.
First, some businesses may have trade marks that are not easy to find elsewhere. An example would be a business that has registered a trade mark but has not started using the name yet.
Second, it is relatively easy for a person with a registered trade mark to prevent you from marketing your goods and services under a similar mark. It is therefore important to ensure that your business name and logo are genuinely different from any registered trade marks in the market in which you operate.
Step 4: ASIC and ABR search
Unfortunately, the Australian Government does not have a single register that will allow you to conduct a business name search to check the availability of particular names. Also, the search algorithms within the different databases work differently – which makes it even more important for you to conduct multiple searches in multiple places.
Just because a name is available through ASIC does not mean that you can use it to trade. Someone might be using a very similar name that does not appear in your ASIC search. This is why the internet and trade mark searches are so important.
Perhaps the most important thing is to be creative when generating your list of similar names, and to run your searches across a range of different sources. It is worth keeping records of your searches, just in case a dispute arises.
Putting in the effort upfront to make sure your name is unique is a much better investment than your re-branding costs and legal fees if things go wrong down the track.