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 trade-mark. 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.
Canadian corporate names (except Quebec) and trademarks database (Nuans)
Nuans reports list similar provincial/territorial corporate names and trademarks, except for names in Quebec.
Check trade names in other provinces and territories
After searching the national databases, you may also want to search registered trade names in other provinces and territories if you ever plan to do business there. Registering a trade name (operating name) does not give a business exclusive rights to use that name. However, it may not be a good idea from a marketing perspective to use a name that another business is already using.
Use these links to search the provincial and territorial databases:
- Alberta: Corporate registry search
- British Columbia: Name search
- Manitoba: Companies search
- Saskatchewan: Existing businesses search
- New Brunswick: Corporate affairs registry search
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Request a name search
- Northwest Territories: Corporate registry search
- Nunavut: Business search
- Prince Edward Island: Corporate/business names registry
- Yukon Territory: How to find out what names are available
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