Relationships with your Competitors and the Marketplace - Spot the Difference

Posted by Malcolm Campbell on 25 August 2016
Relationships with your Competitors and the Marketplace - Spot the Difference

Trade marks, Business Names, Company names & Domain names – what are they, what to they do and why should you care?

The short answer is that they all do different things and have different objectives & outcomes. No one single registration is all encompassing and failing to secure the correct combination of these items for your business can prove costly. 

Trade Marks

A trade mark is a way of identifying a unique product or service. A good trade mark distinguishes your business from other traders. Sometimes referred to as a brand, it can help your customers discern the quality of your product or service over that of your opposition.

A trade mark is not just ‘a logo’. It can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture, movement, aspect of packaging, or combination of these.[1]
An owner of a trade mark can prevent others from using a mark similar to theirs so as to avoid confusion in the market place as to the owner of the mark or the related goods and/or services. 

Business name

A business name is simply a name under which a legal entity conducts business. You must register a business name in Australia, unless you trade under your own name, or fall within an exemption. Registration on the Business Names Register identifies who is behind a business name.[2] you do not own a business name as such, rather you are simply the registered user of that name. Registered business names can offend others trade mark rights.

Company name

A company is a separate legal entity registered with ASIC.  A company has its own name which is required to include the legal terms or abbreviations 'pty' and/or 'ltd' at the end of the name.

A company may choose to register a business name if it wants to carry on a business using its name without the legal terms, or if it wants to use a different name.[3]

ASIC will not issue a business name that is the same as a company name unless it is that company seeking he name.

Domain names

Domain names are used to identify one or more IP addresses, or in simple terms it is the unique address for a website. Domain names are registered on a “first come, first served basis”. Domain names are generally separated into two groups, “global” domain names, for example those that end in .com, .net etc, or domain names that end with a “country extension”, for example,, etc. The international policy authority for global domain names is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The Australian policy authority for .au domain names is .au Domain Administration (auDA).  Accredited registrars conduct domain name registration.

Because domain names are unique if a preferred domain name is unavailable, abbreviations or acronyms can be used, or alternatively, hyphens or numbers could be added to a business name to make it unique for the purpose of domain name registration.

The practice of cyber squatting (registering domain name using others names/brands/trade marks and then seeking to sell them to the owner of the brand/name) is prohibited in Australia.


Getting your business set up and protected as best as possible from your competitors and making sure you stand out in the marketplace is a difficult and time consuming process for any business. It is critical to ensure you understand the importance and significance of each element. We have years of experience in helping businesses manage their intellectual property rights – let us help guide you through the process so you can move forward with clarity and confidence.


[3] Ibid