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March 03, 2023 by Ava Aslani
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.
First, the legal requirements: if you’re operating as a company, you will need to register your business name.
Corporate names in British Columbia must include three elements: a distinctive element, a descriptive element, and a corporate designation element. The distinctive element sets your proposed name apart from other businesses with similar activities. The descriptive element explains the nature of your business and can allow for identical or similar distinctive elements. The corporate designation element can be one of the following: “Limited”, “Incorporated”, “Corporation” or the abbreviations “Ltd.”, “Inc.”, or “Corp.” Examples include David’s Films Inc. or Essentia Law Corporation.
Alternatively, you can opt for a BC numbered company, where the number is assigned by the BC Corporate Registry when you file your incorporation application.
Before finalizing 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 with similar names. 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 has approved your name! Needless to say, this is 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 search with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).
I cannot stress the importance of this step, as I have personally seen several cases where proper searches were not completed prior to incorporation and ultimately resulted in the dreaded “cease and desist” letter from another company who had a similar name. Spend a bit of time doing some research and you could save yourself a ton of time, energy, money, and mental anguish down the road.
Your Online Presence
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.
Naming your corporation requires careful consideration of the legal requirements, your online presence, and potential competing businesses with similar names. Taking the time to do thorough research can save you significant time, energy, money, and mental anguish down the road.
Ava Aslani has built a successful practice specializing in tech startups and digital entrepreneurs. She can help ensure you get up and running with a solid legal foundation and set your company up for success!