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Selecting a corporation name

Region: Ontario Answer # 218


All corporations must have and use a corporate name. The corporate name may either be the incorporation number which is issued by the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services upon incorporation, or a distinctive corporate name which has been properly searched and appears on the Articles of Incorporation. In addition to having a corporate name, it is possible for corporations to register and use business names.

Corporate number as name

In some cases, companies do not want to use a descriptive name for the business and simply choose to use the corporation number followed by the words Incorporated, Corporation, Limited or one of their abbreviations. Legally, there is no difference between a named and a numbered corporation.

Descriptive corporate name and name searches

If the company does want to use a descriptive corporate name, then that proposed name must be searched before it can be registered.

Nuans searches

A formal NUANS (New Upgraded Automated Name Search) search must be conducted and submitted with your application for incorporation. To conduct a search you must order a NUANs report that will reveal all registered business and corporation names and trademarks that are similar to the business name you propose to use.

A NUANS report is also known as a NUANS Name Reservation because the name you have proposed has been reserved, exactly as entered, for 90 days. This is important for people wishing to incorporate a company. If the NUANS report shows that the name you want is available, you must submit the report and file your Articles of Incorporation along with any other corporate filings before the 90 day reservation period has expired. If the 90-day period ends before your corporation is registered, you must order a new NUANS report. In addition, this search is necessary if you want to conduct business in provinces or territories outside of your own, as the search reveals all existing names that have been registered in Canada, except in Quebec.

Other searches

However, it is a good idea to first conduct searches using online telephone directories and other business listings. If you do not find a name too similar to the one that you propose to use, then you can go forward with a NUANS search. The NUANS search is usually conducted by a private search company. There is a small fee for this service.

You can also conduct a search byusing ServiceOntario’s Public Record Search to see if the business name has been registered with the Ontario Government.

You must be careful not to copy or come too close to copying another registered business name. If your corporate name is too similar to a name that is already being used, you may have to change your business name, and you may be sued.

Business names for corporations

A corporation may also want to use an abbreviated version of its legal corporate name, or a totally different name for advertising or marketing purposes. For example, a shorter name on a storefront sign may attract more public attention. To legally use a different name from the corporate name, it must be properly registered to the corporation. It is important to understand that a registered business name does not replace the legal corporate name, but is used in addition to the legal corporate name.

Corporations are legally obligated to register all business names that they use in addition to their corporate name. If a corporation does not register one of the names being used, and a legal problem arises, the limited liability of the corporation may not be valid under the unregistered business name. This means that the owners and directors and officers of the corporation may be held personally responsible for corporate liabilities.

Although corporate names do not expire, business names are only valid for five years. If you plan to use a business name for longer than five years then you must renew the registration before it expires. The Ministry will not notify you of the expiration date. It is your responsibility to renew your business name.

NEW Ontario Business Registry

Businesses can now complete over 90 transactions online through the new Ontario Business Registry. This includes:

  • register a new business name
  • renew an existing business name
  • dissolving an existing business
  • incorporate, dissolve and change a corporation or not-for-profit or charity
  • search for a business or not-for-profit corporation
  • file notices and other documents under other business law statutes

Currently, mailing or emailing documents is also still available.

Registering existing business: Existing businesses and not-for-profits who wish to access their profile or file documents using the Registry will require a Company Key. Businesses can submit a request for their company key at Ontario.ca/BusinessRegistry.

New businesses and not-for-profits should visit the Ontario Business Registry: all services page for instructions on how to create and register their new business.

Anyone can do a free search of the Ontario Business Registry to get basic information about a business or not-for-profit corporation.

Some offices closed

As a result of the launch of the new Registry, six service counters across Ontario will no longer endorse articles submitted under the Business Corporations Act. As well, the ServiceOntario counter at 375 University Avenue in Toronto has closed. Visit ServiceOntario for information on what offices are still open and what transactions can be completed in-person.

Corporations Annual Returns

As of May 15, 2021, the Canada Revenue Agency no longer accepts corporations’ annual returns on behalf of Ontario. Corporations whose annual returns were due during the period of May 15, 2021 through October 18, 2021 were exempt from filing. Corporations who have an annual return due on or after October 19, 2021 must file their annual returns in the Registry.

More info

More information about incorporating a business in Ontario can be found from ServiceOntario. For information about federal incorporation, visit Government of Canada, Federal Corporations. To conduct a NUANS search, visit nuans.com.

Get legal help

Selecting corporate and business names, incorporating a company, issuing shares, and preparing appropriate by-laws and minute books for a corporation can be complicated legal issues. For legal advice and assistance, contact our preferred experts at Kalfa Law, or call them now at 1-800-631-7923.



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