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Business Name Guide: How to Choose Your Name
Business Name Guide: How to Choose Your Name

Business Name Requirements & How to Read your NUANS Report

Written by Jordan Casey
Updated over a week ago


This naming guide covers six elements:

  1. How to Name Your Company

  2. Choosing a Numbered Company

  3. Exact Name Matches on Ownr

  4. Prohibited Names

  5. How to Read your NUANS Report

  6. Changing your Business Name

1) Named Company

Your company's name must be unique and contain three components:

[Distinctive Element] + [Descriptive Element] + [Legal Ending]

Example: Rhino Sandwiches Inc.

  • Rhino is the distinctive element which promotes your corporation's brand.

  • Sandwiches is the descriptive element, as it describes the nature of your business.

  • Inc. is the legal ending. The ending has no legal consequences, and the one you choose is only personal preference.

2) Choosing a Numbered Company

Your other option is to choose a numbered company.

A numbered company is an automatically generated number that will represent your corporation's name. For example: 1234567 Canada Inc. / 1234567 Ontario Inc. / 1234567 Alberta Inc. / 1234567 British Columbia Inc.

A numbered company can choose to operate using a trade name, but that trade name will have to be separately registered with the provincial government (processing fees vary).

For more information on trade name registrations, visit the government sites for Ontario, Alberta and BC.

3) Exact Name Matches

If the name you want is taken, you will be immediately notified on Ownr:

In this case, there are two options. If you previously registered this name for your business, either as the owner of a Trademark or a Trade Name, or if you have already ordered a NUANS Reservation Report, simply click the purple "click here" (identified by the red arrow above). You will then see the pop-up window below, and can choose the option that is applicable to your scenario using the drop-down menu.

If you previously registered a sole proprietorship or general partnership under the trade name you now want to incorporate, select “Business Under This Name”. You will be prompted to sign a consent form to allow the corporation to use the same name.

Alternatively, if you do not fit within one of the options, you will need to choose a new name.

Keep in mind that the Ownr name search tool may not uncover all registrations in all provinces in Canada, nor will it uncover international registrations, so it’s important to also do your own due diligence.

4) Prohibited Words

Businesses cannot have names that:

  1. Are too general with no distinctive element

  2. Only describe the type of business

  3. Are primarily a geographic name or personal name

  4. Exceed 200 characters

  5. Cannot contain a year, in parenthesis, unless the corporation is a successor corporation

  6. Cannot appear to be 'number' names' (if you'd like a numbered company, you must choose 'Numbered Company', you cannot choose numbers.)

  7. Cannot include government departments (i.e. "Alberta Municipal Affairs", "Canada Customs Agency", "Ontario Social Services")

  8. Cannot include the words 'University' or 'College' in the name

  9. Cannot reference a public institution

5) How to Read Your NUANS Report

Your NUANS report will list the name you reserved as well as all similar names.

Your name will be listed in the top left as well as at number 1 below:

The other names on your search report (found at item 2 above) provide a list of existing corporate names, business names and trademarks that are similar to the one being proposed.

You must review these names and confirm that your proposed business name is not sufficiently similar.

NOTE: Your business name cannot be identical, phonetically identical, or extremely similar to an existing business name.

A different legal ending (Inc. v. Ltd.) does not change the fact that the business name is identical and cannot be used.

6) Changing your Business Name

You can change your name in the future, however, you would need to file documents to amend the Articles of Incorporation. We can only assist with filing business name amendments for Federal Ontario corporations. The filing fees and service costs range between $200-$429 on Ownr (depending on your subscription plan). You can learn more about how to change your name on Ownr here.

If you have any questions about changing your business name after it's incorporated, reach out to [email protected] or use the chat feature at the bottom of this page.

Did You Know?

When you register or incorporate your business with Ownr, you get unlimited business name searches. Start today.

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