SMEs and the Law - Legal Issues for an Online Business


Online businesses are increasingly popular but it's important to make sure that you are on the right side of the law. Check out my three top tips below to ensure that both your business and reputation is protected:

Copyrights and Trademarks

If you plan on selling a unique good or service online, consider a trademark. A trademark can be a word, phrase, sound, packaging, smell, logo or image. A trade mark generally means that nobody else can use the trademarked item to market their good or service. You can register your own trademark through an application on the IP Australia website.

When it comes to copyright, if you are in Australia and have created something original, copyright protection is automatic and free. Therefore, once your idea or concept is documented online, it is protected. Copyright covers works like books, artwork, music, newspapers and magazines.  

Registering a Business Name

Unless you are using your own name as your business name, you will need to register a business name with ASIC.

Your first step is to contact ASIC to ensure that your business name is not already registered. It's also wise to contact IP Australia to make sure that the name isn’t registered as a trademark either. IP Australia has a new system called TM Check, which will allow you to do a quick trademark search online.

Once you have completed all these checks, you can visit the ASIC website to register your business name. The whole process takes about 15-20 minutes. You will need the following information to complete the form:

·         Individual name (the business name holder’s name);

·         Birth details (date and country of birth);

·         Address for service of documents (this can be a street address or PO Box);

·         Address for principal place of business (this can’t be a PO Box and will be displayed on the business register);

·         Email Address

You can register your business name for one year for $34 or three years for $79. Once ASIC has received payment, they will email a letter of registration and you can begin business. 

Spamming new clients

Once your online business is up and running, it’s tempting to send out lots of marketing information. However, this illegal in Australia and considered SPAM. You can send current and new clients messages but only if you have their consent. Consent can be express or inferred. Express consent comes about if the client directly provides their contact details. Inferred consent happens if their email address or phone number is available to the public and there is not statement that commercial messages are not wanted.

The internet has allowed small business to grow in the retail environment and compete with the larger stores; however no matter what size your business is it still needs to comply with Australian Law.

Katherine Hawes is a Sydney based lawyer who specialises in offering fixed fee and low cost legal advice to start up businesses.

Katherine Hawes

Solicitor at

I am the founder of Digital Age Lawyers and Aquarius Education. This is a different type of law firm as we believe everyone should have access to quality legal services with no hidden costs or expensive 'charging by the minute' for a reassuring chat. Small Business Owner? Find out more about our Small Business Packages to gain access to legal expertise on a routine basis for a fixed affordable rate.

Comments (1)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Great tips and feedback.