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Incorporation basics (1) - Choose a name - marketing considerations

I thought it might be helpful to begin a series of posts on points to ponder when it comes to forming your BC corporation. (And some of the ideas will be useful when you're incorporating in Canada or elsewhere.) We've already put some information on the main part of our website (, so you might want to read there, too. There will be overlap, but it's all in a good cause.

Today, we'll discuss choosing a name for your new company.

To begin with, you'll need to consider:

  1. legal requirements, and
  2. marketing (or aesthetic) requirements.

On the marketing side, points to consider include:

  • Do you want or need to obtain a domain name using some or all of the corporation's legal name? If so, you need to make sure the corporate name will be accepted in the BC Corporate Registry (or wherever you incorporate) before getting the domain name. It can be pretty embarrassing, to say the least, to crank up a domain and then find out you can't get that name in the Corporate Registry. Choosing an adequate domain name is a whole essay in itself. Issues of availability, memorability, and easy searchability come into play.
  • Do you want or need to trade-mark the name? In Canada, trade-marks are obtained under the Trade-marks Act, which gives protection all across Canada. (As compared to the United States, where you have a choice of filing for a trade-mark in one or more states or federally.) If so, you'll probably want to undertake a proper trade-mark search before filing for the corporate name. We can help with this kind of search. Donald L. Moir is a registered trade-mark agent with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
  • What is your branding / corporate identity strategy? Is your corporate name going to be identified with the products or services that you are selling (examples: McDonalds; Starbucks). Or do you want your products to be identified separately from your corporate name (example: Johnson & Johnson sells many different products under their own brand names; Procter & Gamble is another). Or will you have a mix (example: Microsoft names most of its products with their own names, but usually uses "Microsoft" with them: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and so on).
  • Are you going to go with a strong name, a generic (weak) name, or something in between? In general, made-up names, such as Kodak or Xerox are unusual and strong. Generic names describe what it is you're selling: for example, "General Shoes Limited". While an in between name takes an everyday word but applies it to a non-obvious subject matter, like "Apple Computers" or "Amazon" for books and, now, many other items.
  • What do you want your corporate name to communicate to the people interested in your business (family, suppliers, customers, employees, lenders, shareholders)? For example, Thomas Watson Sr. chose "International Business Machines" as a name before they had any international customers. He knew where he wanted to go, though, and indicated it right from the start.

You can hire companies to create names for you. Some charge many thousands of dollars for that kind of service.

For those on more limited budgets, I'd suggest pulling out a dictionary and thesaurus and flipping around at random. Let your mind go. Do free association. Using the speller or thesaurus function on your word processor is another to generate words that might not come to mind otherwise. Make a list of your choices and then narrow it down. Get input from family, friends or business partners.

Some people turn to foreign languages for inspiration. That's fine. Just be sure you understand what the word means in the foreign language, whether or not you'll be selling outside Canada.

There's even software that can help. Just Google under "company name generator" or "business name generator" or similar phrases.

It's hard to get a decent name these days, as there are already so many corporations on the list of companies. The obvious choices are probably already taken. For example, using "Creative" in your company name isn't. There are tons of "Creative" companies already out there. Same thing for local names. Here in the Vancouver area, "Coast Mountain" is used by many, many companies. You'll improve your chances of success in registering your name if you steer clear of easy, obvious choices.

I've only scratched the surface of marketing considerations in choosing your corporate name. Next, we'll look at legal considerations for your BC company.


INC Business Lawyers for Canadian, US and International Trademarks.