Selection of a Business Name and Business Name Search

Business Name Selection

When starting your own small business, you need to first decide if you wish to operate under your own personal name or under a registered name. The use of your exact personal name does not require registration. If you wish to do business under a Business Name other than your own, you must register your name of choice. A business name check will help you ascertain the usability of this name. This name must be registered with the Companies Branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Business.

Example: If you operate under the name John Smith you do not have to register your business name. If you operate under the name John Smith Consulting you must register your name with the Ontario government.

Unless you have incorporated your business, you may not include the suffix INC, LTD, CORP, Incorporated, Limited or Corporation.(Applicable for Company names/Corporate Name)

Under Ontario's Business Names Act, fines of up to $ 2,000.00 can be levied against individuals and up to $ 25,000.00 for corporations for failure to register or for registering false or misleading information.

Business Name Search

Once you have decided on a few choices you will need to check to see if any or all of these names are available for use. If you receive a report that indicates there are no exact matches to your name, you may proceed with the registration of your non-incorporated business.

You can search for business name availability with a Preliminary NUANS Search or a NUANS Search.

The Preliminary NUANS search is an inexpensive way to search across Canada to determine if there are any companies using your exact name. You will be able to search up to three names at once.

For more extensive search for business name, you may also want to get a NUANS report. NUANS (Newly Updated Automated Name Search) is a Canada-wide corporate and business name registry. A NUANS search will display corporations, business names and trademarks, which are similar to the name you have searched. It is not obligatory to do a NUANS search for the registration of Sole Proprietorship or Partnership but is recommended to avoid conflicts.

Registering business name is no guarantee of exclusive use. Business name protection is provided by a trademark, not by name registration. The Business Names Act does not prohibit the registration of identical names, so you could register a business name that another company is already using.

Q. What should you keep in mind while choosing Good Business Names?
A. Choosing distinctive names to stand out from your competitors is the critical first step to your registration process. Make sure the names are not misleading or confusing in its description of the goods or services you will provide. Business names must be registered in the Roman alphabet (English, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, etc.) and may contain numerals.

Q. What elements cannot be used in a business name?
A. When choosing your business name, remember that certain words or expressions cannot be used.

  • Words or expressions, in any language, that are obscene or objectionable in nature.
  • Words that imply the business is a different type of organization. For example, you may not imply that a sole proprietorship is a partnership. You may not use numbers or words that imply the business name is a corporate number name.
  • The words "college", "institute" or "university" cannot be used without the written consent of the Ministry of Education, if using the word implies the business is a post-secondary institution.
  • You may not use the words "limited", "corporation" or "incorporated" or their respective abbreviations Ltd., Corp., and Inc.
  • Words with restricted use under federal or Ontario laws.
  • Words that imply the business is associated with the Crown or the Government of Canada, any province of Canada or any municipal government may not be used without the written consent of the appropriate authority.
  • Names of individuals may not be used unless they have or had a material interest in the business activity and have given their written permission. If an individual is not living, and the name is used within 30 years of the date of death, the written consent of the estate must be obtained.
  • It is your responsibility to make sure your business name does not contain any of the above words or expressions unless proper consent has been obtained.

    The following marks may not be used as the first character, but may be included in the name: ! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . / : ; > = < ? [ ] \ ^ ` .

    Business names composed of characters from other alphabets must be translated and registered in a language using the Roman alphabet.

    A business name in a language other than one using the Roman alphabet may be used in advertising and signs, but the business name must also be displayed in a language using the Roman alphabet.

    For example, a business that registers its name in English may have letterhead or signs in Chinese characters as long as the English name is also displayed at the place of business.

Q. Why do I need a NUANS Search?
A. Corporate name search report is required in order to register:

  1. Provincial or Federal corporation
  2. Non-profit or charitable corporations
  3. Register a Trademark

NUANS name search is necessary to incorporate your business in Ontario or Canada. Requesting a NUANS search online takes only a few minutes. Your NUANS report is usually ready within 2-3 business hours. Your NUANS search report will show what specific sole proprietorship, partnership, trademark and corporate names that sound similar to your proposed name. If a conflict exists then you will have to do a new NUANS name search. That is why we recommend doing a preliminary business name search before an actual NUANS search. That gives you an opportunity to search for up to 3 business names at a much lower price. A NUANS report does not provide any form of approval. It is a tool that will allow you to make an informed decision. It is important to study both the name section and trademark section of your NUANS report for companies, businesses and trademarks that may conflict with your name choice. The decision to proceed is entirely your own and the responsibility for this decision rests entirely with you.

Q. Why would I do a NUANS name search when I can do preliminary name search for less?
A. NUANS search is required by law in order to register a corporation in Ontario or Canada. After the name search has been done, the NUANS search report gives you the right to reserve the corporate business name you selected for 90 days, unless the same name already exists. That means no one will be able to register the same corporate business name before 90 days expire. A preliminary search only searches exact matches. If you want to be certain that no similar names exist, a NUANS is an excellent tool even for a sole proprietorship and partnership.

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