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It can be a fun but challenging process to name your business. Your business name is crucial to your brand and growing your business in the future. It should be unique, effective and help customers and clients understand and remember your business. Achieving all of this in one or multiple words is undoubtedly a challenging task. This article outlines some considerations when naming your business in New Zealand. It also briefly covers some commercial considerations.

Making Sure Your Business Name Is Unique

As a basic rule, your business name should be unique. This is for both legal and commercial reasons. To register your business name, the name you choose cannot be identical or ‘almost identical’ to another company in New Zealand. Of course, when naming your business, you do not want to have a similar name to another company in any case. This makes it challenging to build a distinctive brand and distinguish your product or services.

Luckily, the government offers a useful ONECheck service to let you check the availability of any potential company name. This service provides:

  • the ability to check registered company names, web domains and social media usernames in a single search;
  • a measure of the originality of a potential trade mark, on a sliding scale; and
  • an explanation of the difference between a company name and a trade mark.

Note that reserving your company name does not grant your business automatic trade mark rights. To protect your name and brand, you will need to register a trade mark with the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. However, ONECheck offers a helpful starting point to see if a proposed business name could be a trade mark (based on its uniqueness and originality) and provides the next steps. 

Other Legal Considerations

There is a range of other legal considerations when it comes to naming your business. They depend on the particular circumstances of your business. For instance, if you are reserving a name for an overseas company, it must be identical to the name used to register the company in its home country.

There are some other restrictions on certain words you might want to use as part of your name. For instance, you generally cannot use the term ‘bank’ (or a translation of ‘bank’) in your business name. To do so, you must get written authorisation from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. 

Another interesting example is with the term ‘insurance’ or similar concepts like assurance, reinsurance or underwriter (or any term that means the same as these terms). You can only use these terms if you are actually an insurance business. Otherwise, you will have to confirm that your company will be engaged in insurance business activities in New Zealand when you reserve your company name. If not, you will need to change your name. 

Watch out for the term ‘royal’ as well. A company name may include the word ‘royal’ only if ‘royal’ refers to a person’s name or place. Otherwise, you will need to seek written approval from the Governor-General of New Zealand by applying through the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

Commercial Considerations 

Finally, there are plenty of commercial considerations to balance alongside legal considerations. Ultimately, your business name will (literally) define your business for the foreseeable future, and you will build your brand around it. Therefore, it should be memorable so your customers and clients can remember it or connect with what your business deals in. An effective business name can help to reinforce your business’ value proposition.

Further, there are other considerations. Having a simple name makes it easier for your customers and clients to remember your business. Ideally, your name would also allow for the future expansion and growth of your business. Tying your name to just one particular product or service might prove to be limiting if you want to offer more products or services later. 

Additionally, you may wish to expand your business to an overseas market. In this case, you must conduct your due diligence to ensure you can protect your brand name and other intellectual property overseas

Tip: Keep your long-term plan in mind when considering what to name your business.

Key Takeaways

There are several legal and commercial considerations to think about when naming your business in New Zealand. An essential step is to have a unique name that allows you to register your business name, obtain a trade mark and start building a distinctive brand. The ONECheck service is a great tool to check possible names and work out if your name is unique.

You should also be aware of other legal considerations, like avoiding terms with restrictions (such as ‘bank’ and ‘royal’) if at all possible. Finally, commercial considerations like future growth prospects should be a key consideration as well. If you want to know more or get assistance with naming your business, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you register a business name if it is the same or similar to an existing company?

No. A new company name cannot be identical (or almost identical) to that of another company.

Does registering a business name give you a trade mark automatically?

No. Reserving your company name does not grant your business automatic trade mark rights. You will need to register a trade mark with the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ).

What does the ONECheck service do?

The ONECheck service provides a few different ways of checking your proposed business name. You can search through registered company names and other domains in just one search, see the originality of your proposed name, and give you a starting point to apply for a trade mark.

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