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 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 Center 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:

For the written consent, there are model consent letters for business corporations. There are also model consent letters for not-for-profit corporations.

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:

Cases when a consent letter may be required

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

There are model consent letters for business corporations. There are also model consent letters for not-for-profit corporations.

Prohibited terms

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

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:

Misdescriptive names

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

Requirements on naming cooperatives

If you are incorporating a cooperative, see Creating a cooperative.

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