Choosing a business name – 2. Find out if the name is taken

Choosing a business name – 2. Find out if the name is taken

2. Find out if the name is taken

In most cases, if someone is already using a name, you cannot legally use it. By law, the name of your business can't be the same as or very similar to an existing corporate name or trademark. Even when it is legal to use an existing business name, it can be a disastrous marketing mistake. There are a few places you should check to see whether a name is taken:

Search the Internet

The easiest way to check if someone else is already using your proposed name is to search the Web. This will give you an idea of who else is using the same name or a similar name. You may also want to check whether the Internet domain name and social media handles you want to use are already taken. If you plan to do business in other countries, check whether anyone is using the name in those countries too.

Search national name databases

There are two national databases that each cover most of the jurisdictions you may want to search in Canada. 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.

    Search Canadian corporate names

  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, and Saskatchewan and from Corporations Canada's data.

    Search Canada's business registries

Check trade names in other provinces and territories

After searching the national databases, you may also want to search registered trade names (which are different from trademarks) to see if they're used in other provinces and territories if you ever plan to do business there. However, registering a trade name (also known as an operating name) at the provincial and territorial level does not give a business exclusive rights to use that name at the federal level. Proper consent may be requested for the use of a name that is identical or similar to any kind of existing trade name or trademark (see Naming a corporation – Requirement). It's in the best interest of a business to use a name that is not already being used by another business or corporation.

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