Naming a corporation – Overview

Overview

Every business corporation, not-for-profit corporation and cooperative must have a distinct name that legally identifies the corporation. The corporate name is set out in the articles of the corporation, which is the charter of the corporation.

Corporations Canada reviews proposed names to confirm that they comply with the regulations.

Note

There are different requirements for naming boards of trade.

On this page

Corporate name

A corporate name is the legal name of your corporation. It identifies your corporation. This name must be used in all contracts, invoices, negotiable instruments and orders for goods or services issued or made by or on behalf of the corporation. While your corporate name is the legal name of your corporation, it can be different from the name you use to operate your business (for example, the name you use on your store front, your website or your business cards).

A corporate name is not the same thing as a trademark or domain name.

Also, the fact that you own a domain name does not necessarily mean that your domain name can be your corporate name. Make sure that your proposed corporate name meets all the legal requirements. Keep in mind that you can always change your name at a later date.

The corporate name can be a numbered name or a word name.

Numbered names

If you are applying as a business corporation or a not-for-profit corporation, you can choose to have a numbered name assigned by Corporations Canada. Cooperatives, however, cannot have numbered names.

A numbered name reduces the steps when you choose a name. For more information, see Obtaining a numbered name.

Word names

A word name can include letters, symbols and numbers. The word name has to be distinctive and must not cause confusion with other names or trademarks, and it cannot include prohibited terms. For more information, see Obtaining a word name.

Language of your corporate name

Your corporate name can be one of the following:

  • English version
  • French version
  • separate English and French versions
  • combined English and French version.

English version

Your corporate name can be an English version.

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

French version

Your corporate name can be a French version.

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

Separate English and French versions

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

Combined English and French version

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

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’s 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.

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