Naming a corporation – Requirements

Requirements

Business corporations, not-for-profit corporations and cooperatives must comply with certain naming requirements under the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act.

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Requirements

Your corporate word name must:

Mandatory terms by business type
Business corporations – Legal elements Not-for-profit corporations – Prescribed terms Cooperative – Mandatory words

When you are naming your business corporation, you must include one of the following legal elements:

Limitée, Limited, Incorporée, Incorporated, Société par actions de régime fédéral, Corporation, Ltée, Ltd., Inc., S.A.R.F., or Corp.

If you want a numbered name for your not-for-profit corporation, you must include one of the following prescribed terms:

Association, Center, Centre, Fondation, Foundation, Institut, Institute or Society.

A prescribed term is not mandatory for a word name.

When you are naming your cooperative, you must include one of the following words or a word of the same family:

Cooperative, Co-operative, United, Pool, Coop, Co-op, or Coopérative.

Distinctiveness

The key to naming your corporation is that the name must be distinctive. This means that the name should distinguish your corporation from any other business.

Your name will not be distinctive if it only describes the activities, the goods and services or the characteristics of the goods and services of your corporation. The name "Car Manufacturer Inc." lacks distinctiveness since it describes the activities of all car manufacturers.

Made-up words can make a name distinctive. They can be a combination of two dictionary words such as "Virtuocomp" or something completely new such as "Dweedag".

Unusual names tend to be very distinctive because they are unique.

Examples of distinctive and not distinctive names
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporations Cooperatives
Distinctive Not distinctive Distinctive Not distinctive Distinctive Not distinctive
Dweedag Transport Incorporated Transport Incorporated Dweedag Food Bank Foundation Food Bank Dweedag Farmers Coop Farmers Coop
Purple Carwash Corp. Carwash Corp. Purple Poverty Prevention Centre Poverty Prevention Purple Community Cooperative Community Coop

First name and family names

Your corporate name can include a first name or a family name, or both.

Generally, a corporate name that consists only of an individual's name is not considered distinctive.

If your proposed corporate name contains an individual's family name:

  • the individual, heir or representatives must give written consent to the use of the name (see model consent letters below); and
  • the individual has or had a material interest in the corporation, or, in the case of a not-for-profit corporation, a personal interest in the corporation.
Examples of acceptable and unacceptable corporate names that include a name or a family name
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporations Cooperatives
Acceptable Unacceptable Acceptable Unacceptable Acceptable Unacceptable
D. López Import Ltd D. López Ltd D. López Tennis Foundation D. López D. López Refineries Coop D. López Coop
Milana Fedorov Masonry Inc. Milana Fedorov Inc. Milana Fedorov Learning Institute Milana Fedorov Milana Fedorov Foods Cooperative Milana Fedorov Cooperative
Haddad Consulting Corp. Haddad Corp. Haddad Science Centre Haddad Haddad Jewellery Co-op Haddad Co-op

Geographic names

Your corporate name can include a geographic name.

Geographic names cannot be used alone as a corporate name.

Examples of acceptable and unacceptable corporate names that include a geographic name
Business corporations Not-for-profit corporations Cooperatives
Acceptable Unacceptable Acceptable Unacceptable Acceptable Unacceptable
Iqaluit Productions Inc. Iqaluit Inc. Iqaluit Social Justice Society Iqaluit Iqaluit Fisheries Cooperative Iqaluit Cooperative
Vancouver Brewery Corporation Vancouver Corporation Vancouver Brewery Association Vancouver Vancouver Brewery Cooperative Vancouver Cooperative

Confusion with other names or trademarks

As a general rule, you cannot choose a name that causes confusion with an existing corporate name, business name or trademark. When the names of two distinct businesses are so similar that someone could think that they are the same business, those names are considered to be confusing.

When you are choosing your name, consider doing some research to find out if your proposed name could be confused with an existing corporate name, business name or trademark in Canada.

Your proposed corporate name will be compared with similar corporate names, business names or trademarks listed on your Nuans name search report.

If similarities are found, you will have to provide additional information explaining why the use of the proposed name would not cause confusion with an existing name or trademark. Some of the differences you may wish to highlight include:

  • nature of the goods, services or business
  • nature of the trade with which the name or trademark is associated
  • clientele of the business
  • geographical area in which the corporate name, business name or trademark is likely to be used.

Cases and models of consent letter

There are situations where concerns about a proposed corporate name may be resolved with a consent letter. Here are models:

Canada Business Corporations Act

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act

Prohibited terms

A proposed corporate name cannot include any of the following words:

  • "Parliament Hill" or "Colline du Parlement"
  • "Royal Canadian Mounted Police", "RCMP", "Gendarmerie royale du Canada" or "GRC"
  • "United Nations", "UN", "Nations Unies" or "ONU" (if it connotes a relationship with the United Nations)
  • "Cooperative", "Co-op", "Pool" or "Coopérative" if it connotes a cooperative venture (unless you are incorporating a cooperative).

Your corporate name cannot contain an obscene word or phrase or that suggests a business that is obscene.

Names that suggest governmental or institutional sponsorship or control

Unless the corporation obtains the written consent of the concerned party, a corporate name should not imply that the corporation:

  • carries on business under royal or governmental patronage
  • is sponsored by the Government of Canada, a provincial or territorial government, or a foreign government
  • is connected with a university or a professional association
  • carries on the business of a financial institution or intermediary, or
  • carries on the business of a stock exchange.

Misdescriptive names

A proposed corporate name cannot mislead the public with respect to:

  • the business, goods or services which with the name is related
  • conditions under which the goods or services will be produced or supplied
  • persons to be employed in the production or supply of the goods or services
  • place of origin of the goods or services.

Requirements on naming cooperatives

To get a name in order to incorporate, cooperatives must file an application that includes a Nuans name search report (see Creating a cooperative).

Related links

Corporations name granting

What to do if a corporate name can be confused with another name or trademark