Read This Before Registering A Business Name In Ontario
Imagine that you’ve registered your business and opened yours doors to your customers. Customers are pouring in and your business is off to a great start. Everything is going great! Or so you think…
One day you’re working away, when all of a sudden you receive a notice saying that your business name is infringing on a protected business name and you will need to change your business name!
First, you think how can this happen? My business was properly registered with the Ministry. Doesn’t that mean I can use this name? Isn’t the business name mine to use?
Then you start to realize that all your marketing materials have this business name. If you change your business name you will need to change you marketing materials, business cards, etc. This could get expensive!
What about your customers? They all know you by one name and now you will have to operate under a new name!
This would be a major headache, and is not all that uncommon, but today I’m going to tell you what you can do to help prevent this type of situation for FREE!
How can this happen?
If you are registering a business name in Ontario you will first need to complete a business name search for the name you want to use. Unfortunately, many people will complete an Enhanced Business Name Search thinking this a complete search and all that needs to be done.
The Enhanced Business Name Search is very limited in scope and does not actually provide you with a complete view of existing businesses that may be using the name you are wanting to use.
Even though the Enhanced Business Name Search is often suggested to be used when registering a Sole Proprietorship, General Partnership, or Operating Name we do not recommend it for this purpose. (To find out more about Ontario business structure types check out our Business Structure blog post.)
In Ontario, the Enhanced Business Name Search only covers Sole Proprietorships, General Partnerships and Operating Names. But what if an Ontario or Federal Corporation is using the name? What if the name your searching is actually registered as a Trademark? In either case, you wouldn’t see a Corporate or Trademark registration on your Enhanced Business Name Search. You may then assume that you can use the name, but this is the problem. You begin using a name because you didn’t know it was already registered by a Corporation until one day, after you already started your business, you receive a notice in the mail that you are subject to further legal action if you don’t change your business name.
How can this be prevented?
In Canada, there is actually a database that covers all business registration types. That’s right, it covers Sole Proprietorships, General Partnerships, and Operating Names as well as Corporations and Trademarks registered across Canada. This is the NUANS database.
In fact, the NUANS database can be searched for free with a NUANS Preliminary Search. The search will then show you any registrations, across Canada, that match your search terms.
If you are registering a business name in Ontario, we highly recommend using the Free NUANS Preliminary Search as it will show you any registration with the name you are searching. Also, make sure to search variations of the business names you are thinking of using. For example, if the name contains the word ‘and’ also try searching with the character ‘&’. Searching with variations will help you get a full picture of what similar registrations already exist, and help prevent any name issues down the road.
If you are registering a business name make sure to at least complete a Free NUANS Preliminary Search to help ensure that the name you are going to be using for your business is not already protected and being used by someone else.
The search is free and can save you a major headache! What do you have to lose?