A preliminary name search is a pre-check of a proposed company name, business name or sole proprietorship name before you order your full NUANS name search report or other similar name search. A NUANS name search report or similar name search report is given to the government when you wish to incorporate a company, and also sometimes when you are registering a business name, sole proprietorship or partnership in Canada. The government reviews the name search report to ensure there are no conflicts before it allows you to register your business. Some Canadian jurisdictions such as the federal jurisdiction will reject a name even if it sounds like another name and is spelled differently.


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When is a Preliminary Name Search Required

When you order a NUANS report or name search report with a search house normally the search house will do a preliminary name search as part of the service. You should ask this in advance. You should never receive a full NUANS name search report or similar name search without first having a preliminary name search done. If the search house says this is not part of their service then you should look for another one. Any search house can order a NUANS name search but a qualified search house will pre-check the name for you to make sure you have a better chance of having your name accepted by the particular Canadian government.

Example of Why a Preliminary Name Search Should be Requested

Consider it this way. You decide you want to register the name John’s House Cleaning Business Inc. There is no exact match but there is a registration for John’s Housecleaning Business Ltd. The search house you use does not tell you about John’s Housecleaning Business Ltd. because they do not pre-clear the name. You register your business and John of John’s Housecleaning Business Ltd. finds out about you. He has established himself in the same area where you live and is well known to the public for 20 or more years. He considers your business name as a conflict and he could take you to court and try to get your name changed because it is a conflict to him. Depending on how well he is established or the conflicts that arise after you start using your name, you could be requested by court order to change your business name. Can you imagine how much trouble that could be for you? Would you want to have a name that was that close to another business anyway? It would be a conflict for you as well. In Ontario you can register any company name as long as it is different in some way. Using the example above, both those names are the same except for one space and the ending of the name. The Ontario government would let that go through however the federal government would reject it for sure.

Name Clearance Procedures in Ontario and Alberta

In Ontario and Alberta and possibly in other Canadian jurisdictions, you can register a business name, sole proprietorship or partnership without providing a NUANS name search report. This means the government will not be reviewing the name prior to registration and therefore the onus is on you to ensure you have a name different from others. In fact in Alberta and Ontario you can register a business name exactly the same as another business name. In these cases it is a good idea to do a preliminary name search. Therefore in a case where you do not have to provide a name search report to register a business name, partnership or sole proprietorship, you should do a preliminary name search. Keep in mind that many search houses will do the preliminary name search for free if you chose their service to register your business, however, if you have any concerns about that just write them and ask them what the policy is.

Some governments will allow you three choices for a name for the price of one name search report. This gives you a better chance of having one of your names accepted and in cases such as that you might not need to do a preliminary name search. One of the ways to ensure your name is accepted is to make absolutely sure that you have a very descriptive name. Refer to the section on choosing a name for more information.  Most governments only allow one choice at a time.