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Registering a sole proprietorship

Region: Ontario Answer # 207

Why register a business name?

There are two main reasons why you will need to register a business name.

1. Required by banks and various government departments

Generally, you will need to show your copy of the business name registration when you set up a bank account for your business. In addition, when you register for your Business Number or apply for any necessary business licences, a copy of the registration is usually requested.


2. Registration required by law

Even if you are not concerned about someone using your business name, under the Ontario Business Names Act, you are required by law to register it. If you do not register the name of your sole proprietorship, you may be fined up to $2,000.

Further, the law requires that you register your business name unless you are using your own name. For example, if your name is John Smith you can call your business John Smith, and you do not need to register your name. However, if you decide to call the business John’s Ice Cream, then you must register the name. This helps to ensure that a particular name is not used by more than one business. The goodwill or familiarity that goes with a particular business name is very important and valuable.

It is advisable that you ensure that the business name you want is not already being used. Although the Act does not prohibit the registration of identical business names, if you use a name that another business is already using, you may be sued and end up being ordered to change your business name and pay the other person compensation.

Further, the Act does not provide protection for the exclusivity of a business name registration. Exclusive use of names can be protected by registering a trademark. For more information about trademarks, refer to the Intellectual Property section of this website.

You can register your business name with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for a small fee. It can be done online, in-person, or by mail. The form is quite simple and you will probably be able to complete it on your own. Registration lasts for five years from the date of registration. However, the registration can be renewed by completing the renewal form and paying a small fee. It is best to submit the renewal before the name expires, however it may be submitted within 60 days after its expiration.

More help

More information on registering a business name can be found from Government of Ontario, Business and Economy services, or the Federal Government’s Small Business Services.



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