Registering Your Business Name

A Small Business Beginners Guide

9 mins read

This article goes through the best practices of registering your business name.

Finding a name for your new business sounds like a simple task but there are several steps you should take to not only save you time in the end but a lot of frustration. Canadian law requires you have a registered name filed to start a business. But before you can register a business in the Corporate Registry you must name your business and conduct a name search. The following link can show you some of the best naming practices for Choosing a Name for Your Business. Then you need to make sure that the name you have chosen is not already taken. Here are the several options you have.

Search the Internet

One of the easiest ways to determine if someone else is already using your proposed name is to search the Internet. You will know immediately how popular the name is and if someone else is using it in your marketplace. This will also give you an idea about how unique your business name is along with ways it is being used by others. For example, you may be a tailor who wants to start a business called “Jacob’s Closet,” but upon searching you discover there is also an adult film company going by the same name in California. They may be in another country, but the name similarity may get confused with your business and cause concern over the services you provide.

You will also want to search the Internet domain names and social media terms that you want, to see if they are already taken. A great place to do a free domain search is GoDaddy.com which will show you if the domains available, along with other variations (.com, .ca, .org, etc.) If you are planning to do international business in other countries or a digital store, you will need to check if anyone is using your name in other countries as well.

Search the National Name Database

Sometimes a name may be registered but is not currently in public use. This can happen when businesses go bankrupt or were businesses and no longer exist. So, your next step is to search the National Name Database.

There are two national databases that each cover most of the provinces you may want to search in Canada along with nationally. The best idea is to search one or both of these depending on where you want to set up your business.

  1. Canadian Corporate Names and Trademarks Database (Nuans)
    Nuans reports list similar provincial/territorial corporate names and trademarks.

  2. Canada’s Business Registries
    This service allows you to get information on businesses from the official registries of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and from Corporations Canada’s data.

There are two national databases that each cover most of the provinces you may want to search in Canada along with nationally. The best idea is to search one or both of these depending on where you want to set up your business.

  1. Canadian Corporate Names and Trademarks Database (Nuans)
    Nuans reports list similar provincial/territorial corporate names and trademarks.

  2. Canada’s Business Registries
    This service allows you to get information on businesses from the official registries of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and from Corporations Canada’s data.

Check Trade Names in Other Provinces and Territories

Just to be safe, once you have searched the national databases you will also want to search registered trade names in other provinces in case you ever might do business there. Registering a trade name does not give a business exclusive rights to use that name. This final check is a good protective measure from a marketing perspective to not end up using the same name as another business.

Registering Your Name

The government requires that most businesses need to register their business name. There are several different types of names your business could have and how to register them. This is why it is important to decide what structure you will use for your business before registering your business name.

This is where you seriously need to understand the basic structures of a sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation, along with what each option entails. For more information, read through the articles on Choosing a Name for Your Business and The 3 Structures of Business

Registering Your Name

The government requires that most businesses need to register their business name. There are several different types of names your business could have and how to register them. This is why it is important to decide what structure you will use for your business before registering your business name.

This is where you seriously need to understand the basic structures of a sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation, along with what each option entails. For more information, read through the articles on Choosing a Name for Your Business and The 3 Structures of Business

Sole Proprietorship

A business operating under your legal name as a sole proprietor generally does not need you to register your business name. This means you may run a business under your first and last name (John Cook), and it would not require a registration if you are working alone. Any other scenario will require you to register your name either as your legal corporate name or a trade name.

Registering a trade name (operating name) other than your legal name

The registration of a business name is required by Provincial legislation if it’s different than your own personal name.

To use a name other than your legal business name, you will need to register it as a trade name. You may suffer from significant fines and other legal consequences for failing to register a name that you are using.

Examples of businesses that need to register a trade name include:

    • you are a sole proprietor but are adding something to your legal name that modifies it (for example, John Cook Consulting)
    • you intend to use a name other than your legal name for marketing purposes (for example, your business’ legal name is Franklin Bakeries Inc., but you are marketing as Charlie Franklin’s Bakery)

Now that you have selected a business name that best suits your business it is time to submit it for approval to the Corporate Registry, Information Services Corporation (Phone: 1-866-275-4721)

Now you can Register your Business!

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