Registering your business name with The Intellectual Property Office
You don’t specifically need to register your business name or trade name but you can apply to register a name with The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ.govt.nz) if you choose.
Most small businesses will choose a business name without registering it with IPONZ. However, it is worth checking the register at www.iponz.govt.nz to make sure you are not likely to be using a name protected by someone else in your industry or a related industry.
Registering the name may help prevent others from using it and will assert your rights to the name if it is challenged by a competitor.
However, it should be noted that you can only register distinctive trade names or trademarks.
For example, you could call your business “IT Professionals” but you would not be able to trademark the name.
If you designed a unique logo using the words IT Professionals, then the logo could be trademarked as it would be distinctive enough that a competitor would have to copy it to use it, rather than inadvertently describing themselves as IT professionals.
Registering your business with the Inland Revenue Department
Before you register you new business with the IRD, you must first clarify what a business is.
A business is an activity carried on with the intention of making a profit.
If you have a business, the business itself does not need to register with IRD. The owner of the business must be registered with IRD.
If you run a business as a sole-trader, then you personally are the business owner. You must be registered with an IRD number under your own name.
If you run a business through a limited liability company, the company owns the business and will be registered with IRD.
In either case, the business itself may have a trade name separate to your name or the company’s name. This business trade name does not need to be registered with IRD.
Each business structure or legal entity has its own pro’s and con’s and it pays to get this setup correctly from the start. See our article on Choosing a Business Structure for more information or get in touch for more in-depth advice.
Registering your business name as a Limited Liability Company with the New Zealand Companies Register
If you wish to trade through a limited liability company, you will need to register your company name with the New Zealand Companies Register. Once this has been done, no one else will be able to form a company with the identical, or nearly identical, name.
If you would like to know more about the reasons you could choose to operate through a Limited Liability Company as opposed to operating as a Sole Trader (for example), see our article on Business Structures – Sole Trader or Company?
You could call your company IT Professionals Limited, providing there is no other registered company in NZ with that name.
A competitor cannot then call themselves IT Professionals Limited, but they could still describe themselves as IT professionals.
Another consideration is reserving the domain name for your business.
You can check whether a name is available as a company name, trade name and domain name by searching at https://www.business.govt.nz/onecheck/. The site also contains useful information on protecting your Intellectual Property.
Other Useful Information
There are lots of things to consider when starting your own business!