How to register your business name

E-commerce 101

Nina Barango

Feb 24, 2022

The name of your business represents your brand, it is how you present yourself to the customer, and it is how they are going to find you online. 

Before you choose a name for your business, you need to make sure it’s unique and available. You can quickly search the complete list of registered business names and trademarks in Canada by carrying out a NUANS search. This is important because you want your business name to be unique and distinct from the competition. You also don’t want to get in any legal trouble by choosing a name that’s already been trademarked or registered by someone else.

The process for registering your business name will vary depending on if you are registering your business name as a sole proprietor or as a corporation and on what province you are in. Sole proprietorships are easier to register than corporations because they require less paperwork and are less restrictive. In most cases, registering as a sole proprietor is not necessary unless you're looking for a unique business name. However, before you get too attached to a name, you need to make sure it’s unique and available. You can quickly search the complete list of registered business names and trademarks in Canada by carrying out a NUANS search.

Registering your business name as a corporation requires a few more steps than doing so as a sole proprietorship. Once you get past the business name search and settle on a unique name, you’ll need to answer additional questions about why you decided on your business name.

Typically the following business day, you’ll be sent a NUANS Report. This is a six-page document that lists any similar business names and trademarks to the one you chose. If you’re comfortable and believe your business name is distinct, you’re now ready to incorporate it with your business name.

FAQs about registering your business name

Does my business have to generate a certain amount of money before I register it?

No. Regardless of how much you earn, you need to register your business name. It’s that simple. The only exception is if you are doing business under your own legal name without any employees.

If I register my business name in Ontario, can I operate anywhere?

No. The protection you get from registering a business name is limited to the province where you register it. If you want to do business and collect money from anywhere in Canada, then you’ll need to register your business in every province. If you’re incorporating, then you have the option of doing so federally. 

If another business name is not in my province, can I use the business name?

Not exactly. Once a business name is trademarked (regardless of the province), it is off-limits. Now, if another name is registered under a sole proprietorship and it’s out of your jurisdiction, you have a decision to make. You can trademark a name without registering it as a business. However, you cannot register a business with a name that has been trademarked by someone. We recommend that if you think of something unique, but know that registering a sole proprietor name alone doesn’t offer the same legal benefits as incorporating.


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