Choosing a name and logo for your business is an important step. Did you know that there are rules for this? How can you make sure that the name you want is not already taken? And how can you protect the name and logo of your business?
Choosing a business name
The name of a business is an important part of its identity. Choosing a name can be a very personal process, but certain rules also apply.
Finding the right name
You can create your business name from a combination of elements, like your last name, a place, an acronym, or the type of services you provide. The law does not require you to choose one element over another. Here are some examples: Groupe MLF Inc., Paradis Bertrand S.E.C., and Huile Tizi‑Vgayet & cie inc.
You can also use a generic name, which is the “default name” that the Registraire des entreprises du Québec (Quebec business registry) assigns you when you register your business (for example, 1234-5678 Québec Inc.).
In addition to your official name, you can also use other names to identify your business. These are sometimes called “trade names”.
Your business name must meet certain legal requirements, including the rules set out in the Quebec Charter of the French Language. For example, the name must be in French, but you can create a version in another language as well.
The name cannot be immoral or obscene. For example, it cannot refer to criminal activity.
In some cases, the name must include something that identifies the legal form of the business (Inc., S.E.N.C., S.E.C.).
For more information, see the Definition and Rules Applicable to the Name of an Enterprise and guide Les noms d’entreprises au Québec (French only) of the Registraire des entreprises.
Checking if your business name is already taken
Once you’ve decided on the name you would like to use for your business, you need to make sure it’s not already taken.
You can start by looking up the name on a search engine or social media. These searches will help you find out if another business or organization is already using the name you have in mind.
Searching in specialized databases is another way to find out if another business or organization is already using the name.
- Registraire des entreprises du Québec: This database lists the names of all businesses registered in Quebec. On the homepage, click on “Find an Enterprise”, then enter the name you have in mind.
- Canada’s Business Registries: This site lists the names of companies registered with Corporations Canada and in the registries of most Canadian provinces, including Quebec.
- NUANS — Corporate Name and Trademark Reports: This is a paid service of the Government of Canada that searches for company names and trademarks.
Protecting the identity of your business
The name and logo of your business are important assets. Here are some steps you can take to protect them.
Registering with the Registraire des entreprises
You can start by registering your business with the Registraire des entreprises under the name you have chosen. In most cases, this is a mandatory part of setting up your business.
The Registraire gathers and makes public certain information about registered businesses, including the name of the business and the names of its directors.
Once the Registraire has accepted a name, it will refuse any other application with the same name. This means that registering the name of your business provides you with some protection.
Registering a trademark
A trademark can be a word, image, or symbol used to distinguish your company, services, or products. When you use your name and logo as a trademark, for example by displaying them on your products, the law automatically grants you some protection.
For greater protection, you can register your name and logo as trademarks with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Registering a trademark gives you the exclusive right to use it for your goods or services throughout Canada.
Trademark registration is quite a technical process, so it is usually a good idea to consult a trademark agent. For more information, see the Filing a Trademark Application section of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s Trademarks Guide.
Reserving a domain name
If you decide to create a website for your business, you may want to use its name in the URL, for example, www.yourcompanyname.ca. This is called a domain name. You can reserve a domain name to ensure exclusivity over it.
First, check if the name is available. To do this, you can search the website of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority for domain names that end in “.ca”
To check for names ending in “.com”, “.org”, etc., you can consult a domain registrar.