COLUMN: When it’s time to name a business

When you discover an opportunity to venture into business with an idea or concept ...

  • Apr. 12, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Legal-Ease by Rav Duhra

When you discover an opportunity to venture into business with an idea or concept, one of the first things you will need to consider is giving your business a name.

In choosing a business name, regardless of whether you want to register a sole proprietorship, a general partnership or a limited liability company in British Columbia, the approval of any business name is at the discretion of the Registrar of Companies. It is relatively simple to check if the desired business name is already in use because the business registry of BC lists all the names of companies that are registered in BC.

If your desired business name is not already in use, the process to reserve the business name is to submit a name approval request online to the BC Registry Services. The form used to submit the name request allows you to make a maximum of three choices, in order of preference, for each name approval request. The business name must include a unique element, a descriptive element and a corporate designation.

The unique element may consist of your initials, your name or even a made up word so long as it is not objectionable on public grounds. Objectionable names include vulgar expression, obscene words or connotation, racial, physical or sexual slurs. The descriptive element usually relates to the nature of the business such as Abbotsford “Car Parts” Ltd. or Abbotsford “Painters” Ltd.

The corporate designation, if applicable, must be the last word in the name and may include “Ltd.”, “Inc.”, “Corp” among others. If you feel that the use of having a unique element, descriptive element and corporate designation in your business name creates too much formality, which is inconsistent with your brand, there are ways to use a variance of the name for marketing purposes.

If your business will likely have an internet presence, it is important to find out if a corresponding website domain name is available before you register your business name. Consider choosing a business name that is not too constrictive for future expansion of your products or services and geographic expansions into other jurisdictions and markets.

The registration of the business in itself does not entitle you to a proprietary right or interest in the name. The best way to distinguish a brand from those of your competitors is by way of a registered trademark.

Finally, it is important to ensure that the full legal name of your business is displayed on all of your signage, legal documents, letterhead, business cards and any other form of advertisement. It is also important to make it clear when you are signing your name on behalf of the company, and not yourself personally.

A business lawyer can help you get on the right path in securing the desired name of your business; a small amount of time spent on a consultation at the outset can save you money, time and stress.

Ravi Duhra is a partner with RDM Lawyers LLP in Abbotsford.  He practises in the areas of residential real estate and business law.  Questions or comments about this article can be sent to