Trade Names and how to use them

Register as a sole proprietor – includes trade name –

Watch our 8 minute video on Trade Names:

Using a Close Corporation/Company Name t/a (trading as) Another Name

When you select a name for a Close Corporation/Company, bear in mind that you can use the Close Corporation/Company name trading as another name of your choice.

Please note: New legislation requires that all trade names that are not incorporated in a CC or company name must be registered either as a Defensive Name ( or as a Trademark (

Naturally you cannot use someone else’s trading name, but if you are fairly certain that nobody you are aware of is using a trading name that you want to use, you can use it (although, obviously, at your own risk). You can then acquire what is called “a common law right” to the use of the name.

If however, someone approaches you and can prove that they have been using that trading name before you, you may have to change your trading name. If they cannot prove it, but you can show that you started using the name first, then you continue using the trading name, and that other person can be asked to stop using it.

If you are using the trading name in a town which is, for example, 1000 miles/kilometres away from the town in which the other person uses it, and that doesn’t affect either of your businesses, it can be agreed (even verbally) that you both just carry on running your businesses as you have been.

If you want to be sure that you have the registered right to a trading name then you can apply to change the name of your Close Corporation / Company to the name you want to trade with, or you form a new Company from the start. (New Close Corporations can no longer be registered.) See our Order Forms for details. When changing or acquiring the name of a Close Corporation / Company it is your responsibility to ensure that your new name does not conflict with other company / corporation / registered / trade / trademark names in your country.

Many people, however, choose to use a Close Corporation / Company Name and trade as Another Unregistered Name of their choice. This is often done when a person has been a Sole Proprietor t/a Their Trading Name, and many clients know the trading name. Such a person has already built up Goodwill surrounding the trading name and a Common Law Right to the use of the name.

Although we, for example, have registered a trading name “CC’s Instant” (=Close Corporations Instant) as a trademark, this is a rather expensive process and may not always be necessary, especially if you have a trading name which includes your name/surname, you have been using the name for some time, or you have done your research which shows no one else seems to be using the name.

You can use a Close Corporation / Company name and still trade as your own Trading Name. (Remember: you cannot register a “Close Corporation / Company name t/a Another Name”. You just assume – start using – the trading name in conjunction with your Close Corporation / Company name, obviously at your own risk as described above.)

Close Corporation/Company name usage tip:

Let’s say you have a Close Corporation/Company with the name Kembul CC.

You can trade with the name as it is: “Kembul CC”

If you really like the name “Kembul”, but you wish to embellish on it for trading purposes, you could trade, for example, as follows:

“Kembul CC t/a Kembul Pump Supplies”.

If you are not mad about the name “Kembul”, you could trade, for example, as follows: “Kembul CC t/a Thompson’s Pump Supplies”, assuming your name is Thompson, or “Kembul CC t/a Anything Pump Supplies”, assuming you have checked out the name represented by Anything for possible use by others.

A handy way of checking on some usage of trading names by others is to search through local and other telephone books for the trading name you want to use. Although this is not a foolproof method it does give some indication.

You can obviously use more extensive methods, like phoning your local Telecom/Telephone Enquiries and asking them for the telephone number of the trading name you want to use.

Just say, for example:
“I’m looking for a business called ‘Quick Computer Services’.”
Then you could say:
“I’m not sure where it is in the country, so could you please check the major centres for me…[then you name the major centres]”
If you get no phone number, there is a fairly good chance such a name is not being traded with, although the name could be in use in a smaller centre, but you might decide that this does not worry you, and you feel okay about using the trading name.
Obviously if you are given a phone number by Enquiries, then the name is in use, and you should do further research on another trading name.

The best procedures for checking on trade names will differ from country to country.

If you want to check whether or not your proposed trading name is being used in South Africa by a registered Company or Close Corporation, we can do a search of the Government Computer for you.

Please use the Trade Name Search order form.

If your trade name is not the name of your company or CC, you must by law to register it in terms of CPA 2008 and new Companies Act 2008 (South Africa) – please apply here: