• Ava Aslani

What's In a Name? Considerations in Naming Your Company

One of the first (and sometimes most challenging) decisions you'll have to make for your new business is choosing the company name. Do a Google search and you'll get a long list of resources, from branding and marketing articles to name generators, to get you started with the creative process. But before you send your business cards off to the printers, you should think through some important legal issues.

The Technicalities

First, the legal requirements: if you're operating as a company, you will need to register your business name.

Corporate names (at least in British Columbia) must include three elements: a distinctive element, a descriptive element, and a corporate designation element.

The distinctive element is used to differentiate your proposed name from the names of other businesses that carry on the same activities. The descriptive element is used to describe the nature of the business (it can also be used to allow identical or similar distinctive elements). As far as the corporate designation element, you can choose from "Limited", "Incorporated", "Corporation" or the abbreviations of these words (i.e. "Ltd.", "Inc." or "Corp.").

Some examples are: David's Films Inc. or Essentia Law Corporation (shameless plug).

Your other option is to have a BC numbered company, the number of which is assigned by the BC corporate registry when you file your incorporation application.

Competing Businesses

Once you finalize your top three name choices (it's good to have a couple of backups in case your first choice isn't approved), you'll want to do some research to make sure there aren't any competing businesses out there. If your name is too similar to an existing company’s name, it likely will not be approved by the Registrar. If your name is too similar to an existing trademark, you may find yourself receiving a cease and desist letter, even if the Registrar approves your name—not ideal if you've spent significant time and money on developing your brand.

Google is your best friend here, but ideally, you'll want to do a search through the BC Corporate Registry to check for existing companies as well as a trademark searches with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

Final Thoughts

On a practical note, as you go through your creative process, give some thought to your online presence. Is there a domain name available for your preferred business name? If not, are you willing to settle for .ca over .com? In this day and age, it's hard to exist as a business without an online presence. So if your customers won't be able to find you online, you may need to rethink your branding strategy.