How Can I Search My Business Name Against Existing Businesses?

search an existing business name

If you are incorporating a business, it is mandatory in every Province and Territory to provide or gain documented support that the business name you have chosen is available. In Provinces such as British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a search request is done with the Provincial Government agents either before or as part of the incorporation process with what is called a “name reservation”. This is a search requested by you and approved by the Province on the name selection for your business. In Provinces such as Ontario and Alberta, there is a third party document required called a NUANS report. This document provides 7 pages of similar named businesses, incorporations and trademarks to the proposed business name.

What does NUANS mean?

The Nuans provides a 6 page report of similar existing businesses throughout most of Canada. The NUANS report is generated by Industry Canada.  You must use a member of NUANS to obtain the report. We are members and have been since the 1990’s. Here is the link for members available for you to use including our information.

How long is the NUANS good for?

Once you have ordered the NUANS report, the NUANS name reservation is  valid for 90 days. If the report is coming close to the end of the 90 validity, we recommend you order a new NUANS report which will provide you the opportunity to extend the name reservation for another 90 days.  Once you have incorporated with the NUANS report, a new NUANS report is never required.

Name Approval

In some Provinces and Territories, the government employees decide if a proposed name is available and accepted for use in their jurisdiction. In others, such as Ontario, it is up to the discretion of the business owner to ultimately decide if they should proceed with a name. The Provinces that do take the weight and risk off the business owner’s shoulders by determining if the business name will be accepted alleviates the concern over name infringement of the business name against existing business names.

Differences between incorporation and registration in searching the business name

There is a variance in what each type of business set up provides but whether you are incorporating or completing a business registration or operating name, it is highly recommended, you search the business name against existing businesses within your Province or Territory. Similar to the incorporated companies, if you are registering a small business in British Columbia, Saskatchewan or Manitoba, a name reservation is required. If you are registering in Ontario, you can complete a Sole Proprietorship, General Partnership or Trade Name under an existing corporation without searching the business name against existing business names all together or you can search the NUANS system, the same as what is required when incorporating in Ontario.

Whether it is mandatory to complete a search on similar business names, we highly recommend you search the business name prior to setting up the business.

Here are a few quick reasons to consider:

  • Infringement of existing business name (legal action may develop)
  • Poor reputation by existing business
  • Advertising dollars you spend may benefit the existing business instead of you

To start, you can Google the business name you are interested in to see if there is a web presence for that name. This allows, at minimum a view to see how common your business name is on the internet. If you see a number of businesses, you may want to move on and search for an alternative name. As I have said my entire career, choose a business name that is unique to you or what your business offers.

Online presence doesn’t provide a full list of businesses and there are still some businesses, although fewer everyday, who do not have a web presence at all. You can also search the NUANS databank which provides a listing of similar business names, incorporated companies and trademarks in most jurisdictions and in some jurisdictions, the report is mandatory when incorporating.

If you have decided on a business name and would like our assistance to search the name and in some cases gain acceptance of the business name with the Province or Territory agents, here are some links to assist you:

Most Provinces and Territories – search the preliminary NUANS databank to see if a business exists that is similarly named:

NUANS Preliminary Name Search

Nuans report only. Mandatory if you are incorporating in Ontario, Alberta and Federally:

Business Name Search

If you would like to register or incorporate the business see links below:



British Columbia



At Ontario Business Central Inc., we aim to make this process as easy and seamless as possible for you.

If we can be of assistance, or if you have any questions about these services, please feel free to reach out to our staff for any clarification or assistance you may require.
Toll-Free: 1-800-280-1913
Local: 1-416-599-9009
Fax: 1-866-294-4363
Office Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Monday – Friday E.S.T.

Ontario Business Central Inc. is not a law firm and cannot provide a legal opinion or advice. This information is to assist you in understanding the requirements of registration within the chosen jurisdiction. It is always recommended, when you have legal or accounting questions that you speak to a qualified professional.