BC Name Search Report – Outline of BC Ministry Requirements for Business Names

BC Name Search Report – Outline of BC Ministry Requirements for Business Names

The BC government has name granting procedures and policies that differ from some of the other provinces.  The BC government considers any similar BC name already registered and as well looks at the nature of business of the proposed business when granting names.  This article outlines some of those requirements and provides tips as to how to get a name approved and obtain a BC Name Search Report for a proposed business name registration.


Three Name Choices When Submitting a Request for a Proposed BC Name Search Report

The British Columbia Corporate Registry allows you to submit three proposed names for their review when requesting a BC Name Search Report. This is the only province that does this. It is very important to take advantage of this opportunity since the examiners have personal views and even though a name may appear to be clear, the examiner may feel it is not for a variety of reasons. If you give them three choices you will have a better chance of approval.

As indicated above, the examiners also consider the business purpose of a company as well when they make decisions on which names can be used for a BC business. It is not possible for you to determine which registered businesses have a similar business purpose to your proposed business name. It is therefore important to choose names that are distinct and different from all other names registered across Canada, regardless of the business purpose, and take advantage of the three choices option.

Why Use a Search House to Pre-Clear Your Names and Submit a Name Clearance Request to the BC Government on your Behalf

The BC Registry does have a free pre-clearance program in place. However, it is very limited and will not bring up all conflicts to any proposed names. If you use this service there is a very high chance that your proposed name will be rejected even if it appears to be clear because the BC name clearing program does not provide enough broad matches. The only way to do a broad pre-clearance of your proposed BC business name is to have a search house check the name through the NUANS system since it allows for broad matches.

A Canadian search house has access to all of the names registered across Canada. Not only will they be able to clear your name for use in BC, they will also be able to confirm that your proposed name can be used anywhere in Canada. Many businesses now conduct business right across Canada so it is important to pre-clear your name throughout. The BC government’s pre-clearance program does not search conflicts outside of British Columbia.

Single Word Names

The BC Ministry does not normally approve single word names. An example of a single word name for a company would be “Doe Inc.” or in the case of a business name, proprietorship name or partnership name, the word “Doe” would not be acceptable. The only time a single word name will be accepted for a proposed business is if the name is a coined name and it has been trademarked first.

Distinct Elements of a Name

The BC Ministry takes the distinct elements of a name very seriously when it considers whether a BC Reservation Report will be provided. Therefore, if you wish your name to be approved it is a good idea to following the name granting rules. There are three elements of a share company name and two elements for operating names, proprietorships and partnerships.

  • Distinctive Element – This element is the first one or two words of the name and it can be any noun, a street name, a city name, a coined name (which is a name that has been made up), a colour, an object, etc. The more different and distinct this element is will make it easier for you to obtain approval for your proposed name(s).
  • Descriptive Element – This element is in the middle of the name. It should describe the nature of business. The BC Ministry insists this element forms part of the name. An example might be online store, marina, knitting supplies, etc.
  • Legal Element – As indicated below, there must be a legal element at the end of a name for a BC company such as “Limited”, “Incorporated”, “Corporation”, “Ltd.”, “Inc.” or “Corp.” See a more detailed description of the requirements for legal elements under Corporate Designations for BC Business Names outlined below.[margin_10t][margin_10t]

 Special Characters

The BC Ministry recommends that the use of special characters for corporate and business names be avoided. Some characters are not recognizable by the system and may not be allowed because of that. The symbol for the cent sign is not allowed.  To avoid refusal to obtain a favourable BC Name Search Report it is best to avoid symbols.  Feel free to contact us if you wish to know if a particular symbol might be acceptable.

Legal Designations for BC Business Names

There are a number of different types of business registrations in the province of British Columbia and each one has to be set out in accordance with the statute requirements for that type of business. Below is a summary of the legal designations for the various types of business registrations:

BC Incorporated Company – The last word of the corporate name must have one of the following legal designations: “Limited”, “Incorporated” or “Corporation”. You can also use the short form versions of the words as follows: “Ltd.”, “Inc.” or “Corp.” If you are choosing a French name then the legal designation would need to be Limitee, Ltee., Incorporee, Inc. or Corp.

BC Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships do not have a legal ending such as Limited, Ltd., Incorporated, Inc. or Corp. however, they may use the following: Company or Co.

BC Cooperatives must use the word “Cooperative” in their name and may also use “Society”, “Union”, “Association” or “Exchange”.

BC Societies must have the designation “Association” or “Society” as the last word in the business name.

BC Limited Partnerships must use “Limited Partnership” at the end of the name.

BC Limited Liability Partnerships must use the words “Limited Liability Partnership” or “LLP” at the end of the business name.

BC Business Names Cannot Suggest a Government Connection

Certain words that may imply that the proposed business will be connected to the government are not accepted. Specifically the following words must be avoided: “government”, “ministry”, “bureau”, Secretariat”, “commission” or “certified”.

The use of the word “BC” or “British Columbia” as a distinctive part of the name (i.e. at the beginning of the proposed name) is considered in the eyes of the BC government to imply a connection to the government. In cases such as this, in order to use such a name you would need to obtain the approval of the government. You can, however, use these words at the end of a name and before the corporate designation (legal element) of the name. An example would be Veener Shipping of British Columbia Inc.

BC Business Names Must Not Suggest a Connection to the Crown

Any request for a BC Name Search Report for a proposed BC business name registration that implies any type of connection to the Royal Family or the Crown is not allowed including any reference to any living member of the Royal family, or endorsement by the Crown or Royal family. An example of this would be Prince Charles Coffee Shop Limited. You are allowed to use words that relate to places such as Prince George or Prince Rupert.

Using Personal Names in a BC Business Name

Personal names are allowed as part of incorporated BC companies. For instance, if you wish to use a name such as John Doe Inc. or Doe & Brown Inc. this would be acceptable.

Numbered Company Names

It is possible to register a numbered company with the province of BC. If you choose to do this the BC government will assign a specific number to your new incorporation. It will look similar to 999999 B.C. Ltd.

Number Names

Number names differ from a numbered BC company name. Numerals may be used in company names in the distinctive portion of the name (the first one or two words of a name). An example would be 13457 Enterprises Ltd. or Atlantic Enterprises (1998) Ltd.


Resources for Canadian Business Owners Inc. is a registered search house.


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