Naming a corporation – Overview

Overview

Every business corporation, not-for-profit corporation and cooperative must have a distinct name that legally identifies the corporation. This name is set out in your articles of incorporation.

Transcription — How to name your federal business?

Incorporating your business?

Every federally incorporated business – known as a corporation – needs a distinct corporate name. This is your company’s legal name, the one you have to use in contracts and invoices.

There are two ways to name your corporation:

Get a word name. Once it’s approved, you have the right to use it across Canada.

You’ll need to prepare a bit, but your customers will be sure to recognize you wherever you do business. When choosing a corporate word name, make sure it’s distinctive.

This means that it distinguishes you from other businesses. You can do this using a dictionary or made-up word, or by combining names and words.

Also make sure that the name you want won’t be confused with any existing business names or trademarks. If names are too similar, someone may think they’re the same business.

Your other option is to choose a numbered name.

This is the easiest way to name your corporation because we assign the number.

You can use another name to conduct business, but you’ll need to register it in the province and territory where you operate.

Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to pick the right name for your business corporation!

Types of corporate names

A corporate name is the legal name of your corporation. This name identifies your corporation, and you must use it in all contracts and invoices. It can be a word name or a numbered name (for example, 12345678 Canada Inc.).

Remember: your corporate name is different from a trademark or domain name. Owning a domain name does not automatically mean that it can be your corporate name.

  • Word name

    A word name can include letters, symbols and numbers. It has to be distinctive and must not cause confusion with other names or trademarks. The name also cannot include prohibited terms.

    Corporations Canada reviews all proposed corporate word names to ensure they comply. For more information, see Obtaining a word name.

  • Numbered name

    Only business and not-for-profit corporations can have numbered names (assigned by Corporations Canada). You can use a different name to operate your business (for example, the name you use on your store front, website or business cards).

    For more information, see Obtaining a numbered name.

Language of your corporate name

Your corporate name can be one of the following:

  • English only
  • French only
  • English and French (separate)
  • English and French (combined).

English

Your corporate name can be in English only.

Examples of an English version
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporation Cooperative
CHICO Hairdressing Inc. St. Anne's Healthcare Foundation ABC Farmers Cooperative

French

Your corporate name can be in French only.

Examples of a French version
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporation Cooperative
Coiffures CHICO Inc. Maison Maxime Garderie Adorable Coopérative

English and French (separate)

Having separate English and French versions means that you have an English version and a French version that you can use separately. You can use either version legally.

While one name does not need to be a literal translation of the other, both versions must not give the impression of being two different corporations. For business corporations and cooperatives, the legal element in both versions has to be equivalent.

Examples of separate English and French versions
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporation Cooperative
Techni-Glass Ltd. Smith and Fournier Institute ABC Farmers Coop
Techni-Verre Ltée Institut Smith et Fournier Coop de fermiers ABC

English and French (combined)

You can also choose to have a combined English and French name. This is the legal name of your corporation and it must be used in its entirety. For business corporations, the legal element "Inc." must appear at the end of the name.

Examples of combined English and French version
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporation Cooperative
Coiffures CHICO Hairdressing Inc. Maison Maxime House Garderie Adorable Daycare Coopérative

Protect your corporate name

Even though the federal name granting examination is rigorous, the name approval process does not guarantee protection against other corporate names, business names or trademarks. Once you are incorporated, it is your responsibility to protect your name. Consider the following measures:

  • monitoring what is online
  • obtaining surveillance services for corporate names, other registered business names, trademarks and domain names
  • strengthening your name protection by developing a branding strategy, obtaining a trademark or purchasing domain names.

If you find a federal corporation whose name can be confused with yours, see what to do if a corporate name can be confused with another name or trademark.

If the other corporation is not a federal corporation, consult the provincial or territorial authority that created the corporation for their process.

To ensure that the specific needs of your corporation regarding the protection of your corporate name are met, consider consulting a lawyer or another professional advisor.

Related resources

 

Want to know the difference between a corporate name, trade name, brand name and domain name?

Listen to experts, including one of our own, explain it in episode 22 of the Canadian IP Voices podcast from Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).