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Naming your business: What to know

A concept of a business name by Getty Images.
Stock photo by Getty Images

Why should I choose a name for my business?

A name will be an asset for your business, because all of your communication and advertising will carry it. It will help you create an identity for your company and drive customers. Your business name will represent the good will you generate through prolonged business. In all provinces, when you want to operate a business — other than when you’re a sole proprietor operating under your own name — you are required by law to register your business name.

When is my business name protected?

A corporation’s name or trademark is protected by law in most provinces. This means, you can sue others if they start using the same name or something very similar to it. Note that if you register your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership, your name is not protected. Your name is also not protected if you register it as a trade name or operating name.

Can I use my own name as my business name?

Yes, in most cases you can. However, be mindful that using your own name, such as Jonathan Smith Inc., does not say what your business does. Choosing a name that tells customers what your product or service is will likely be more memorable.

What should I consider when choosing a business name?

The most important thing is to make sure you don’t pick a name already exists as a trademark or another corporation’s name. This is why you run your name against a business name registry to make sure it’s available.

It’s also important your name is professional sounding and one that tells customers a little about your business offering.

Using abbreviations, such as XYZ Company, may not be a good idea, because it will require more marketing to make it memorable. If you choose something like “Hazleton Family Snow Removal,” the more customers are likely to know what your business is all about.

You also want your name to separate you from your competition. Pick one that is unique and will not cause confusion in the market. This is called distinctiveness.

Names that are shorter, and easier to pronounce and spell, often become more memorable.

Another consideration is if you want to have a website or web page. Check to see if a web domain is available that matches your business name. If someone else owns the domain that sounds like your business name, you may inadvertently send your customers their way.

Finally, consult your local registration office and read the rules. In most jurisdictions the business name cannot include special characters such as “$,” or letters with accents.

Do I have to renew my business name registration?

Yes, most provinces require that you renew your business name every so often. In Ontario, you are required to renew your registration every five years.

What if I want to incorporate my business federally?

If you are thinking of incorporating federally, where your business can operate anywhere in Canada, you will need a NUANS corporate name search report, which comes with a fee. This search will ensure that your business name is not taken in any particular province. If you’re thinking of doing business in Quebec, you must additionally perform a name search under Quebec’s Enterprise Register.

What if I stop operating my business?

You can cancel your business name and your business registration in most jurisdictions by filing the appropriate form and submitting it to the business registration office. 

Read more:

Naming your business

NUANS Corporate Name Search