Having a unique name, whether it is used in the marketplace, online or when carrying out business transactions, is an important consideration for business owners. Here, you will learn the differences between these different types of names and the importance of choosing them carefully.
Corporation name – The legal name
Every business that incorporates must have a distinct name that legally identifies its corporation. A corporate name is the legal name of a corporation and must be used in all contracts and invoices. It can be a word name or a numbered name (for example, 12345678 Canada Inc.). You can incorporate your business federally or with a province or territory. Federal incorporation is governed by Corporations Canada. Provincial and territorial legislation requires you to register your federal corporation in each province and territory in which it will conduct business. Regardless of the incorporation level, you want your corporate name to be different, to separate you from the competition and allow customers to recognize you wherever you conduct business.
Trade name – Your storefront name
A trade name, or operating name, is the name under which you conduct your business. It is the name that shows on your storefront and how most people would refer to your business. Your trade name can be the same as your corporate name. If you want to use a name other than your legal business name, you will need to register it as a trade name. Trade names are registered at the provincial or territorial level. Registration is different from incorporation. A corporation may incorporate only once, but it can register to carry on business in any number of jurisdictions. A lot of business owners register a numbered corporation name federally and register trade names with their province or territory.
Trademark – Your brand(s)
A trademark may be a sign, or a combination of signs, used to distinguish goods or services from those of others. A trademark is an indicator of source in the marketplace; it's the cornerstone of brand recognition and how clients recognize the brand amongst others. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is responsible for the examination and registration of trademarks in Canada. Registering your trademark is not mandatory. However, the registration of a trademark grants its owner with a range of important benefits. It provides protection across Canada and can also block the registration of confusingly similar marks with CIPO. Registered or not, the best trademarks are those that easily create a link in a consumer's mind between the goods or services and the company selling them. A trademark has to meet certain criteria and, among others, has to be non-descriptive and distinct from those of others in the marketplace. The more distinctive a trademark is, the more likely it is that CIPO will grant a registration. If you choose your corporate name or your trade name strategically, it could be registrable as a trademark.
Domain name – Where people find you on the internet
A domain name is the address of your website, your digital storefront. Domain names are sold by companies called domain registrars. For example, the registry for ".ca" is the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). Anyone can register a domain name through a registrar. It is not an intellectual property right, but if a domain name contains the same word or letters as a registered trademark, the owner of the trademark can file a trademark-based domain-name dispute. The non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has developed a policy to help trademark owners to recover a domain name registered in bad faith. It is important to choose your domain name carefully as it will be used to establish your reputation.
To protect a domain name, you could consider applying to register it as a trademark.
Naming your business, product, service, website? Consider a distinctive name!
- Create a distinctive name when you choose the names associated with your business. The strongest names contain made-up non-descriptive words that are generally considered to be distinctive.
- Make sure the name isn't already taken or similar to something that already exists. Nuans is the Government of Canada's combined search tool of business names and trademarks. You can use Nuans to buy different types of reports to help you do preliminary name searches to get a list of names and trademarks similar or identical to the searched name.
- Formalize it: Both trademarks and corporate names are examined at the federal level and must have a certain degree of distinctiveness to be registrable. If applicable, register the name with your province and the domain name with a domain registrar.
The legal name
Your internet address
|What it is||Legal name of your company, federally incorporated, or with a province or territory. Can be a word name or a numbered name.||Name under which you conduct your business, that shows on storefronts.||Sign, or combination of signs used to distinguish your goods or services from those of others.||Address of your business website.|
|Where to get it||Corporations Canada||Province or territory||Canadian Intellectual Property Office||RegistrarFootnote *|
|The same name could potentially also be||Trade name