What You Need to Know to Register Your Small Business Name in Canada

Applying to incorporate your new small business under the Canada Business Corporations Act affords you two options — a corporate name of your choice or an assigned, numbered name. While choosing your own company name means extra cost for you, there are multiple advantages. Having a corporate name is a significant piece of your business’s advertising, and can be a vital asset as a first public step towards establishing your brand identity.

Corporate Name Requirements

Your company name must meet several requirements before it can be approved by Corporations Canada, Canada’s regulator for corporate entities. The first requirement is that the name must distinctive and clearly distinguishable from the names of all other businesses that function in the same capacity as yours. Distinctiveness can be accomplished in numerous ways. One option is to include a detailed description of your company’s location. For example, a name like “Acrylic Nail Salon” is generic but “Northwestern Acrylic Nail Salon” is much more distinguishable. Another option is to include a made-up word or a unique combination of known words in the proposed name.

Similarly, another requirement mandates that your business name can’t be easily confused with other established names and trademarks. It is your responsibility to do the research and be certain you’re not infringing on another corporation’s name. If you fail to perform your due diligence, the owner of the name or trademark you infringe on could file suit against your company, forcing you to cease using your company name and potentially costing you financially.

A benefit of the federal incorporation process is that it assists you in circumventing this issue by providing you with a database of possibly confusing names and trademarks to help ensure you don’t step on another corporation’s toes. This is where the Nuans Name Search Report, a report you must submit with your application for registering your business name, comes into play. The Nuans search compares the name you submit against the federal database of established corporate entities across Canada, including provincial and federal corporate names, trademarks, and the majority of provincially-registered business names, with the exception of corporate company names in Quebec. This report can be ordered online or requested from a private business known as a "search house."

Including Legal Elements

To include a legal element with your proposed name, the generally accepted method is to append terms such as "Incorporated," "Corporation," "Limited," or their contractions (Inc., Corp., Ltd.) to the end of the name you propose.

Submission and Pre-Approval

Once you’ve completed your application, you can submit your proposed name at the same time. However, if your proposed name is rejected by Corporations Canada, the entirety of your application will also be rejected. To avoid this, you can opt to ask for pre-approval of your name. To seek a pre-approved name, you must submit your application through the Corporations Canada Online Filing Centre. Regardless of which option you choose, gaining approval depends extensively on the completeness of your application, so take the extra time to check your application before submission.

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