How much do you reflect on how you use and protect your name, brand and intellectual property from a technology perspective? Given the world of tech is more complex than it used to be, the following tips may help you if you run a podiatry clinic or work as a sole trader in your field.
A caveat first, however: This article provides general advice only, and nothing here should be taken as legal or accounting advice. There are appropriate professionals out there that you can use for this.
1. How to protect your name
First things first, your business needs a name. Or perhaps it already has one? It might be just your name if you are a sole trader (such as ‘Jane Smith, Podiatrist’), or it might be the name of the company which you use for your business (a holding name like ‘Jane Smith Enterprises’), or it can be another name entirely like something conceptual (think: Nike, Uber, and so forth).
In the old days (as in prior to 2012...) there was a thing called a ‘trading name’. These no longer exist and are now considered an unregistered business name.
Did you also know that a legal name is your own name or the name of a company or other corporate entity? Whereas a business name can be a legal name (as long as it is exactly that). In Australia, business names are registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), and apply nationally. And while we are dispelling some myths here, contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of business names which are quite similar, but may be businesses in different industries.
If you are starting from scratch then take your time and think this through. Here are some things to consider:
- Start Googling. See who else is out there with the same or similar names and stay away from those names.
- Even if you get a business name approved, someone who has a trademark in place may require you to stop using it. So make sure you look at trademarks too during this fact finding stage.
- Try not to use words which are too generic in a business name. For example ‘Perth Podiatry’ might sound great, but may be an issue when you are trying to stand out online compared to everyone else in Perth who is also a podiatrist.
- Keep it short and simple (and preferably not too boring).
- Make sure it doesn't mean something scandalous or rude in another language.
Psst... don’t forget online domains
Nowadays your domain name is also just as important as your business name. Many of your customers will first hear of you, and learn most about you from your online presence. Before you choose a business name, make sure that you can get matching domain names.
Look for not just exact matches for your business name, but similar ones and variations which you either don't want others to use or may want to use yourself down the track. For example our business rebranded a couple of years ago. We still have over 10 domain names which use our actual name or similar ones.
You should make sure you can get the ‘.com.au’ version of the name as well as the ‘.com’. If you are planning world domination down the track, you may need others too. Get every domain name you think you will ever need before you start.
A word of warning: There are unscrupulous individuals and organisations who specialise in buying similar names to those of existing businesses and then will try to sell them to the businesses for inflated prices. If you are faced with this, then tread carefully. Look into the organisation before you agree to send any money. If you are at a stalemate, there may not be much you can do. Frequently the domain will be owned by an overseas organisation, and trying to get it through legal means might be difficult and very expensive.