Your business name is one of the most important parts of launching your company. It is what people will remember you buy, search online for, and associate with the products and services you offer.
This quick guide will show you how to do a business name search in Ontario. We also provide you with some tips on how to name a business and outline how to register a business name in Ontario.
Let’s get started!
Understanding Ontario’s Business Name Act
When starting a business in Ontario, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Ontario’s Business Names Act. This legislation governs the registration and use of business names in the province.
Here’s a summary of the Business Names Act, in plain English:
- Registration Requirement: If you’re doing business under a name other than your own personal name, you need to register that business name with the province of Ontario.
- Duration: Once registered, the business name is valid for 5 years. After that, you’ll need to renew it.
- Uniqueness: Your business name should be distinct and not easily confused with existing businesses or trademarks. It can’t be misleading or suggest a false connection with other entities.
- Prohibited Names: There are certain words or phrases you can’t use in your business name, like “government”, “crown”, or anything that suggests a connection to the government or the Crown, unless you have permission.
- Legal Structure Indicators: If you’re registering a corporation, the name typically needs to include a legal ending like “Inc.”, “Ltd.”, or “Corp.” to show its legal structure. Sole proprietorships and partnerships don’t need these endings, but the name should not be misleading about the business structure.
- Changes & Transfers: If you want to change the registered business name or transfer ownership of it, there are procedures in place to do so. Make sure to update the registration if there are changes.
- Penalties: If you don’t follow the rules of the Business Names Act, you might face penalties. This includes fines for not registering a business name or for providing false information.
Business Name Search in Ontario: Step-by-Step
There are 5 steps to doing a business name search and registering your business name in Ontario:
- Choose a business name
- Do a business name search (federal or Ontario only)
- Create a ONe-key account: This account provides you with a secure login and password to access various Ontario government services.
- Register for a ServiceOntario account: Once your ONe-key account has been set up, you’ll need to register for a ServiceOntario account, which will store your business registration records.
- Log in and register your business: After creating your ServiceOntario account, log in and follow the prompts to complete your business name registration process.
Let’s go through each step:
Step #1: How to Choose a Business Name in Ontario
You might think that choosing a business name is something that can be done in a few minutes and it’s best to choose a name that comes “from the gut”.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a business name (which is why some people choose to use a business name generator – see the section below on the best ones).
Here are the top 10 things to consider when choosing a business name:
- Relevance and Clarity: Your business name should reflect what your business does. It should give potential customers an idea about your products, services, or the values you stand for.
- Uniqueness: Ensure that your business name is distinct and not easily confused with existing businesses, especially within your industry.
- Easy Pronunciation and Spelling: If people can’t pronounce or spell your business name easily, they might have difficulty finding or recommending it.
- Domain Availability: If you plan to have an online presence, check if the domain name is available.
- Avoid Limiting Names: Avoid names that are too specific, which might limit your business’s growth or diversification in the future. For instance, “Toronto Tech Repairs” might be limiting if you plan to expand beyond tech repairs or beyond Toronto.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Ontario is a diverse province. Ensure that your business name is culturally sensitive and doesn’t unintentionally offend any group.
- Legal Considerations: Avoid names that might infringe on trademarks or other intellectual property rights. It’s a good idea to consult with a legal professional to ensure that your chosen name doesn’t lead to legal complications down the road.
- Consider Local Associations: If your business is local to Ontario, consider names that resonate with provincial landmarks, history, or culture. This can create a sense of community and local pride.
- Regulatory Requirements: In Canada, certain words or phrases may be prohibited or require consent or a license. For instance, using words like “engineer” or “university” might have specific requirements. Ensure you’re compliant with the Business Names Act.
- Bilingual Consideration: Given that Canada is a bilingual country, consider how your business name translates into French, especially if you plan to operate or market in French-speaking regions.
Business Name Generator in Ontario: Online Business Name Generators
It’s not always easy to come up with a name. A business name generator in Ontario can help. To help you, here are a few of the tools available to use:
Step #2: Do a Business Name Search in Ontario
There are two ways to check your business name in Ontario:
- Check the availability of your business name across Canada. You can do that by ordering a federal NUANS report here.
- Check the availability of your business name in Ontario only. You can do this by searching the Ontario Business Registry here.
Step #3: Create a ONe-key Account
Step #4: Sign Up for a ServiceOntario Account
Once your ONe-key account has been set up, you’ll need to register for a ServiceOntario account, which will store your business registration records.
Step #5: Register Your Ontario Business Name
After creating your ServiceOntario account, log in and follow the prompts to complete your business name registration process.
Business Name Registration FAQs
Here are some of the most common questions about business name registration in Ontario, along with answers: