Most businesses need to register their business name with the government. Here, you’ll learn about the different types of names your business could have and how to register them. Before registering your business name, it is important to decide what structure to use for your business (sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation).

When do you need to register a business name

If you are a sole proprietor operating a business under your legal name (for example, Jane Doe), you generally do not need to register your business name. In all other scenarios, you will need to register your name either as your legal corporate name or a trade name. You may also wish to register a trademark.

Corporate names

If you are planning to incorporate your business, the process of incorporating includes name registration within the jurisdiction where you are incorporating.
If you incorporate federally, you will have exclusive use of your corporate name across the country. See start the incorporation process online.
If you are incorporating provincially or territorially, you have exclusive use of your corporate name in the province or territory where you incorporate.

Registering a trade name (operating name) other than your legal name

If you want to use a name other than your legal business name, you will need to register it as a trade name. Failing to register a name that you are using can result in significant fines and other legal consequences.
Some examples of businesses that need to register a trade name include:

  • you are a sole proprietor but are adding something to your legal name that modifies it (for example, Jane Doe Consulting).
  • you plan to use a name other than your legal name for marketing purposes (for example, your business’ legal name is Smith Bakeries Inc., but you are marketing as Bob Smith’s Bakery).

Registration of trade names is a provincial/territorial responsibility. To register your trade name, go to the registry of the jurisdiction(s) where you plan to do business.

Registering a trademark

Even if your business name is registered federally (Corporations Canada), provincially or territorially, you may also wish to register a trademark to better protect your brand.

Advantages of registering a trademark:

  • the registration provides proof of ownership.
  • it provides you with exclusive rights across Canada for 15 years and may be renewed indefinitely.
  • it helps you protect your products and services from imitation and misuse.
  • it allows you to flag an infringement under the Trade-marks Act.
  • it provides you with licensing opportunities to maximize your trademark’s commercial potential.
  • it protects your trademark’s value.

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