Business Name Registration
Starting a new business venture is exciting. Finding a unique business name can set your company apart. The name you pick must be unlike any others already in existence in Ontario or Canada. Axess Law's Ontario business lawyers help you get there by explaining business name registration guidelines for sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations.
Our experienced business law professionals do all the legal documentation for you, for a flat fee that makes starting any business affordable. You pay only $299.99 plus government fees to register a business name or $249.99 to incorporate and get registered. Your business name could be registered within days (depending on how much work we have to do).
When to Register a Business Name
Your small business competes with thousands of others in Ontario and around Canada, maybe even globally. Without the name protection registration gives you, your competitors could dominate your industry and web space just by using the same business name.
Imagine customers' confusion if two or more businesses offering similar services had the exact same name. How do they know they are dealing with you when they call, email or enter your business premises?
Legally speaking, you don't always have to register a business name. But not registering your name is like giving business away, especially in competitive markets like the Greater Toronto Area.
Types of Businesses to Register
Business name registration in Ontario can be required if you operate a:
Starting and operating a sole proprietorship without registering is fine as long as you use only your full legal name. As soon as you add to your name, for example, by describing your services, Ontario law requires the business name to be registered.
Going into business with others makes business name registration in Ontario mandatory:
- unless you use only the partners' legal names -- for example, "Doe and Martin" for John Doe and Jane Martin is permitted, but not "Doe and Martin Shoes"
- for general or limited partnerships that have a separate business name
- and for limited liability partnerships and extra-provincial limited liability partnerships or companies.
Registration is used to set up bank accounts, apply for business licences and obtain a business number from Canada Revenue Agency for income and sales taxes. You could be fined under the Ontario Business Names Act for failing to register.
Business names used by corporations must be registered separately from the corporate name under Ontario law and to prevent being personally liable for legal obligations. You can use a shorter version of your corporate name or unique names to represent each brand or service. Axess Law registers your corporate name at the same time we prepare incorporation documents and can register any number of business names you desire.
Is 'Doing Business As' Legal?
Any time you are dba, doing business as, you are using a business name that needs to be registered. Axess Law has corporate lawyers in Greater Toronto Area who make business name registration simple and straightforward to get your business off to a running start.
Tips for Selecting Business Names
1. Conduct a name search on NUANS to ensure the name is unique.
Axess Law can search NUANS to locate registered business and corporation names and trademarks similar to your suggested business name. Search results are submitted with the Ontario business name registration form. Searches can also show if the name is being used in other provinces or territories (except Quebec) should you plan to do business outside Ontario. Your proposed name will be reserved for up to 90 days. A new report is required after that time.
2. Search other sources.
Besides NUANS, checking online phone and business listings or print business directories in law or local libraries can be helpful. We can arrange this for you for a fee. Government databases can also be searched for similar names.
3. Reserve your business domain name registration for Ontario.
Private web providers or domain name registration services can reserve a business domain name for your website. That allows you to use your unique business name online to promote your goods and services.
4. Add a legal ending to your name.
Add Incorporated, Corporation or Limited or their abbreviations to a business name if you are operating a corporation. You can choose any of the three. The legal effect is the same, whether the ending is Inc., Corp or Ltd.
5. Obtain a master business licence.
Business name registrants receive a master business licence (MBL). MBLs are used to conduct business with government and financial institutions and to get a business licence to operate.
6. Protect your privacy.
If privacy is important to you, consider a sole proprietorship or partnership using your full legal name only. Registered business names and other personal information are added to Ontario public records and can be searched online.
7. Keep your business name current.
Your registered business name is valid for five years. You are responsible for remembering to renew by contacting Service Ontario.
8. Register changes or cancellations promptly.
Changes to your business address, name or ownership require an amended registration to be filed within 15 days. Cancellation of a business name is needed if you drop a business line or stop doing business altogether by notifying Service Ontario.
9. Preserve trademarks.
Registering a trademark protects exclusive use of your business name. Trademarks are separate from business names registration. Axess Law's business lawyers can advise you on trademark protection.
How to Choose a Business Name
Your business name must be distinctive enough that customers don't confuse it with other registered businesses. You could be sued or forced to change the name if you do business in other provinces or territories where someone else has reserved a similar name.
Your business name must include a description of your goods or services. It cannot:
- be misleading
- use someone else's name without permission
- include scandalous, obscene or immoral language
- use words that describe other institutions, such as college, university or RCMP
- and more.
Axess Law business lawyers can advise you what not to include in a business name. Call us or use our online booking form for an online video conference anywhere in Ontario or in person meeting at our Greater Toronto Area law offices.