What are some things to consider when choosing a name for my business?

Are there rules around this? And does it matter if another company has a similar name?

Anita

Anita

Nanaimo, BC

A business name should be both descriptive and distinctive. Descriptive means the name should describe the nature of your business, either specifically or generally (for example: Fernie Tire Shop Ltd. or Fernie Automotive Ltd.). Distinctive means the name should distinguish your company from other businesses with similar or identical descriptive elements. Names that include a personal name, coined word, numerals or geographic location satisfy this requirement. More information on selecting a corporate business name can be found here.

In addition to having both a descriptive and distinctive element, companies must have a corporate designation at the end of their name (for example, "Limited", "Incorporated", "Company", "Ltd.", "Inc.", "Corp."). And if you’re not incorporated, your business must be registered if it is operating under a name other than the legal name of its owner, not to mention probably having to apply to your local municipality for a business permit.

You’ll want to be careful when picking a name that’s similar to another business. First, if you’re planning to be incorporated, the BC Registry might not allow it. Second, you have to be careful about trademarks. If your name or logo is sufficiently close to another business’, to the point that the average consumer might be confused, you could be liable for trademark infringement. Bottom line: don’t call your business “McDonald” and try to sell hamburgers. Before you start printing business cards, Google your preferred name and see if anything in your industry comes up. 

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • Reviewed in April 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

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