registering business names, trademarks, domains and more...

one of the hardest parts of starting a little biz is sorting out the legal requirements and getting all of the ‘official’ documentation in place. i am sure we all would rather just get down to making and selling our thing. here is a compilation of some of the requirements you have to consider when starting out.

note: the information in this post is based on australia. for readers outside of australia please check for your country requirements. if you have information to add (both in and out of australia) please let me know and I will add it to this post.

determine if your activity is a business or a hobby

  • from the ATO find info here and here
  • from build a little biz find info here

figure out your tax requirements

determine your business structure

register your business name

  • you register your business name in your state, and in any state that you want to operate your business in – register for each state
  • you must be certain your business name is not being used in your state (or any state you register it in) – search the names index and search for trademarks
  • if you set up your business as a company you have the advantage of having exclusive rights to that name in Australia, without having to register in each stateregister your company
  • if you run your business under your own name you don’t have to register it as a business name – examples
  • if you are running your biz as a hobby, be careful! down the road when you go to register your biz name, trademark it, purchase domain names etc. your name may no longer be available!

trademark your name

  • even though you may have registered your business name that does not necessarily protect it. the only way to do that is to register a trademark.
  • A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of otherstrademark vs copyright vs patent
  • you can pay a trademark lawyer to do this for you (thousands of dollars) or you can do it yourself (hundreds of dollars) – apply online for your trademark (and i am told if you ring IP Australia they are incredibly helpful)
  • a trademark is class based and is also phonetically based. so if you want to register a trademark for “smilies” baby blankets, and there is already a “smileeze” textile product, then it’s a no go. but if there is only a “smilies” baby food, then that is a different class, so you’re good.
  • your trademark only protects you in the country you have registered it in. so while your biz name or product name may be protected in Australia, it can still be used in other countries. if you wish to do biz overseas and protect your name overseas you need to register your biz and trademark it in those countries as well.
  • the onus is on you to keep up with the terms of registration of your trademark, so be sure you are clear what you need to do to maintain yoru trademark rights.

register your domain

  • even if you do not wish to start a website right away, purchase your domain names now. this is another way of protecting your biz name.
  • it is advisable to purchase all the available domain names for your biz name, and any unique product names you have as well. eg: .com,, .info, .net etc. 
  • you can point these URLs to your main site and you prevent other businesses (in other states or countries) from using the same name as you and perhaps causing confusion to clients.
  • if you wish to have a domain then you need to have an ABN – register a domain

other obligations


do you know of similar posts with information for other countries? please share, i would love to pass it on to my readers…