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The procedure you have to go through to register a business name depends on what form of business you've chosen.  Below are resources for making that decision.


  1. The Small Business Information This Canadian site answers many of the questions you may have about starting and registering a business.
  2. Business Structure Different business structures have different requirements for registration.  Decide on the form or structure of business:  sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation (federal or provincial).
  3. Business Name Decide on your business name. Do a name check to make sure your name is not yet used.  The following are places to check your business name through online searching:
  • To search Ontario corporation names, click here to make a business appointment to request a free Cyberbahn search by Ottawa Public Library Business Service librarians
  • To search Canada corporation names, request a NUANS search
  • To search sole proprietorships and partnerships registered in Ontario use an Enhanced Business Name Search on Business Name Registration

For Sole Proprietorships or Partnerships

A sole proprietorship has only one owner.  Any business name other than the owner’s name must be registered.  For example, if you conduct business as just John Smith, you won’t have to register your own name. However, if you use a name other than your own (e.g., Value Consulting) or if you add any extra words to your name (e.g., John Smith Consulting), you must register.

A partnership is a proprietorship with more than one owner operating a business under a name other than the name of the partners and must be registered.

  1. Service Ontario Business name registration ServiceOntario allows you search, register, and renew your business name online, to obtain an Enhanced Business Name Report and a Master Business Licence and Business Identification Number (BIN).  You need a credit card to use the online service.  If you do not have a credit card, you can do an Enhanced Business Name Search and register using a private service such as OnCorp Direct, or you can register by mail.
  2. How do I protect my business name? The Ontario Business Names Act does not prohibit registration of identical names. However, if you decide to use the same or similar name of another business, it could result in confusion or a possible lawsuit, particularly if the business is located in the same city. The person registering a name assumes full responsibility for any risk of confusion with an existing business or corporation. You can protect your business name by incorporating.

For Corporations

Corporations must be registered in all jurisdictions where they conduct business. If you are going to operate only in Ontario, you can incorporate under the Ontario Business Corporations Act. If you intend to do business in other provinces as well, you can incorporate federally.Check the Guide on Incorporation prepared by Business Services Staff at Ottawa Public Library.

  1. Provincial Incorporation For provincial incorporation, the Ontario Government has created information sheets and provided forms and links to Service Providers who can file Articles of Incorporation through the Internet.
  2. Federal Incorporation  Corporations Canada has Steps to Incorporating and Creating a not-for-profit corporation.  The 2009 Guide to Federal Incorporation is available as a pdf online.  Corporations Canada enables you to incorporate online or using paper.  
  3. NUANS® (New Upgraded Automated Name Search)  This search of corporate names and trademarks compares a proposed corporate name or trade-mark with databases of existing corporate bodies and trade-marks. The search determines the similarity that exists between the proposed name or mark and existing names, and produces a listing of names that are found to be most similar. You may choose to conduct a NUANS search online yourself, or through a registered search house that will help you with the process. Using the registered search house will facilitate a search of other provinces.

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