The Differences Between Business Registration, Company Registration, and Trade Mark Registration


10 minute read


When you’re just starting your business, learning the difference between some key terms can be extremely complicated. If your business is based in Hong Kong, you’re probably wondering about the difference between business registration, company registration, and trademark registration.

To some, it doesn’t seem like these three terms are too different, but they describe processes all of which serve different purposes. They’re also regulated by different laws and different government departments administering the registration system for each of them.

If you want to get a better understanding of these terms, keep reading this simple article where we break down everything you need to know.





Business Registration

It’s mandatory for all business owners to apply for registration within a month from the date of commencement of their business.

This registration is administered by the Business Registration Office under the Inland Revenue Department. This office is responsible for businesses that are carried out by a partnership, an individual, a local limited company, or a company that isn’t local.

It’s also important to distinguish which types of businesses need to be registered:


  • Activity or calling that is carried out for the purpose of gain such as commerce, craftsmanship, trade, etc.
  • Club that provides services, facilities, and allows access to exclusive club premises to any and all of its members.
  • Local or overseas company that has a place of business which is established in the city of Hong Kong, no matter if it’s carrying out business in the city or not.
  • Overseas company that has a liaison office or a representative in the city, or has let out its property situated within the city.


Finally, if you’re carrying on business at a branch, you need to apply for branch registration as well.



Company Registration

The Companies Ordinance is administered and enforced by the Companies Registry. This institution is also responsible for providing services for the merger of local companies as well as the registration of companies that have a place of business established locally but are incorporated elsewhere.

If you want to form a local limited company, you need to propose a company name that isn’t already taken, and you can check the availability of the name you’ve chosen online. However, even if the name you picked isn’t already taken, it still may not be possible to register it.

Here are the things you need to remember when choosing the name for your company:


  • The Registrar of Companies won’t consider if your company name is too similar to a different organization’s name. It is your job to do the research because if you register a name that’s similar to another company’s, they may file a complaint with the Registrar.
  • Before you can successfully incorporate your company, it needs to meet all the requirements of the Companies Ordinance.
  • You will be issued a Certificate of Incorporation in six working days and a Certificate of Registration in 16 working days.



Trademark Registration

Trademark registration to all members of the public is provided by the Trade Marks Registry under the Intellectual Property Department. It’s important to note that even if you register your business or company, that is not the same as registering a trademark.
Once you register your trademark, you distinguish your goods and services from other traders and you have exclusive rights to use that trademark. And if other people use it locally to trade goods and services, you have the right to take legal action against them.

Before you file a trademark application, check to see if there are any similar TMs that were registered with the Trade Marks Registry.

Once the Registry checks your application and makes sure it has no deficiency and it meets all requirements, it will be accepted and published in the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Journal. A third party has the right to oppose your registration within three months after the publication date.

From the date your application is received, the entire registration process can last for up to six months. Once that period is over, you will have territorial protection within the city. But if you want to receive protection in Mainland China, you need to apply for registration there as well.




Business ownership in Hong Kong can be very profitable, even though it requires you to jump through some legal hoops before you can legally operate your business. Registration is one of the most important things you need to take care of, so it’s best to do it as quickly as possible.

Now that you know the difference between business, company, and trademark registration, some things are probably much clearer to you. Still, this can be a complicated process, so feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions.

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