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Choosing the right name for your business in Quebec!

Reading time : 6 min

Just like your newborn child, it is not easy to find a name for your business! 

It may take 5 minutes, but 90% of entrepreneurs take much longer than that to find it. Whether your business is incorporated provincially or federally, a business name must be carefully thought out because it allows customers to recognize your business and it brands your identity.  

You may have found the perfect name for your business, but does it exist? If your business name already exists, chances are that you will not be able to use that name. Let’s take a look at how you can avoid that. 

If you’re asking yourself more questions about the incorporation process, download our free incorporation guide now.


BEFORE YOU REGISTER YOUR COMPANY IN QUEBEC


As a rule of thumb, it is good practice to verify the availability of your business name on the internet beforehand. If you plan to create a website for your business, you’ll also need to verify whether or not your domain name already exists. You can start your research by using different networks such as Google, Instagram and GoDaddy.

Afterwards, you can consult government databases in order to check whether your company name is available. In most cases, entrepreneurs do not check the availability of their name and face a refusal of their application at the time of incorporation. To avoid this, you can search for your business name in the databases of Canada Corporation and/or the Registraire des entreprises du Québec. These databases are available for free. 

Note that although you may be using a business name as a sole proprietor, nothing guarantees that you will be able to use that same business name when incorporating. It is possible that your proposed business name is being used by an existing corporation which will deny your application!  Preliminary research with these government databases can help avoid this. 

Moreover, you should not overlook the importance of international markets. Simply because your name is free and accepted in Canada does not mean that it will be the same when you will want to export it to the United States or to Europe! Therefore, clearing out international databases remains good practice.

Above all, do not forget to verify trademarks databases! It is likely that your proposed business name is available according to Canadian Government Services (hereinafter “CGS”) all while being a registered trademark, because the CSGS does not conduct a trademark research at the stage of your incorporation. Therefore, your business name may be accepted, and your company incorporated, but you run the risk of receiving a formal notice that orders you to cease from using that business name from the owner(s) of the trademark!

Similarly, the Registraire des Entreprises du Québec simply verifies whether or not your business name is identical to the ones already being used (i.e. Lex Start and Platform Lex Start are not considered to be identical).  As for registered trademarks, a much broader criterion is used, and any phonetic or spelling similarity will not be tolerated (for example coca-cola being a trademark, caco-calo or couca-coula will be refused). Thus, a business name research does not encompass registered trademarks. As you can witness, the verification process is complex, and it is important to get help from a professional.

To verify that your proposed business name is not already registered as a trademark, here are several websites that you can visit: in Canadain the United-States and in Europe.

Know that it’s always safer to get help from a lawyer to do these steps properly. Lex Start can help you with this process!


CONDITIONS TO BE MET TO REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS NAME IN QUEBEC


When you incorporate a Quebec company under the Quebec Business Corporations Act (QBCA), it is important to keep in mind that there are 3 types of names : 

  • A numbered name: which is the name that the Registraire des entreprises du Québec (REQ) assigns to you as a corporate name and is similar to the following example: 1234-5678 Quebec inc. ;

  • A personalized name: which is the name chosen by the founders of the company as a corporate name and which is similar to the following example: Plateforme Lexstart inc. ; 

  • An assumed name: which is the name under which the company carries on its day-to-day activities and which does not correspond to its corporate name. It is another name (optional) that allows the company to identify itself by something other than its corporate name.  It is similar to the following example: Lexstart.

NUMBERED NAME IN QUEBEC


If you ever decide to incorporate a Quebec company under a numbered name, the good news is that you don’t have to do anything! The Registraire des entreprises du Québec will assign you a series of numbers followed by “Quebec inc.” as your corporate name. You do not have to perform a preliminary name search as you will be given a distinctive name (which does not yet exist).


PERSONALIZED NAME IN QUEBEC


If, on the contrary, you decide to personally choose the name of your Quebec corporation, you should ensure that the name complies with the law and that it respects, among other things, the provisions of the Charter of the French Language.

The personalized name of a company is generally composed of 3 elements: 

  • A generic part: which designates the company, its services or products and makes it possible to distinguish it in a general way. This part must be in French. 

  • A specific part: a word or group of words that distinguishes one company from another. 

  • A particle: which is used to specify the legal form of the business.

For more information concerning the rules applicable to the personalized name of a corporation created under the Quebec Business Corporations Act, you can consult the site of the Registraire des entreprises du Québec.


THE ASSUMED NAME IN QUEBEC


In Quebec, it is possible to choose a secondary name in addition to your numbered or personalized name. The assumed name allows the company to identify itself by something other than its “official” name and does not include the particle “inc. 

It can be used in the day-to-day activities of the company (e.g. verbally or for advertising) but cannot be used to sign non-current legal documents. In fact, for the latter, it is the corporate name (legal name) that must be used. 

A company that already uses or is in the process of using an assumed name may apply to add one or more assumed names as long as the assumed name(s) meet(s) the legal compliance criteria such as: 

  • The use of French; 
  • It is not a name that the law already reserves for others (e.g.: child care center); 
  • It does not evoke an immoral, obscene or scandalous idea; or
  • It does not falsely suggest that it is a public authority or a non-profit group.

Conclusion


In conclusion, it is important to remember that the name selection is just as important a step as the incorporation of the company itself. To avoid the delay that a first refusal can cause, the seasoned entrepreneur must ensure, on the one hand, that the name he has chosen is available and, on the other hand, that he respects the criteria established by Quebec legislation. 

He must also keep in mind that he can designate his company by a numbered name or a personalized name, to which he may eventually add one or more assumed names.

By incorporating his company in Quebec, the entrepreneur must also be aware that, unless he owns a trademark, he will have to choose a name that respects the provisions of the Charter of the French Language. Download our free guide to learn more about incorporation.

For more information concerning the corporation name, you can consult the website of the Registraire des entreprises du Québec 

Do not hesitate to book a free telephone appointment with a member of our team. It will be our pleasure to inform you more about the possibilities of your business name .

Daniella Tshefu
Legal editor & Customer manager