Consultants from the Halton Small Business Centre often meet with clients to determine what business structure would best suit their individual and business goals. One item that often comes up is how a business name can be protected or secured There are two methods of protecting a business name:
- Incorporation – provincial and federal;
- Trademarks – national and international.
Before reviewing how the two methods can protect a name, we need to clarify the issue of sole proprietorship and general partnership name protection. Under these two types of business registration there, is no protection of the business name. You are free to use the name you register; however, there is no exclusive use of this name.
If the name has been incorporated by another business, you do not want to register the name otherwise you could be faced with legal action in the form of a cease and desist letter from the other business ordering you to stop using their name. To avoid duplicating another company’s name, business name searches are available here.
The first method to protect a business name is to incorporate the business, rather than register it as a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Incorporation can be either a provincial or federal sarrangement. If a business incorporates in a specific province, then the business name is protected in that particular jurisdiction. If a business is incorporated federally, then the business name is protected nationally. This gives the business exclusive use of that business name. Information on incorporation is available here.
The alternate method to protect a business name, or brand name, is to register a trademark. This is a legal process that protects the business name, any scripting or logos and unique marks. This process is administered and regulated through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.There are also International trademarks that can be applied to other countries, if expanded protection is necessary.
One of the goals of the Halton Small Business Centre is to empower small and medium-sized enterprises and provide the right tools to achieve success. For more information about resources, services, business events and seminars, contact us by dialing 311, 1-866-442-5866, visit us online at www.halton.ca/smallbusiness, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville. You can also follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook.