BETTER PROTECTIONS FOR B.C. BUSINESSES THROUGH THE NAME APPROVAL SYSTEM (2023)
Most entrepreneurs in British Columbia are required to have their business name approved by the BC Registry Services. This is an essential step in their business registration. However, B.C. business names are not cross referenced against the federal Nuans database of corporations and trademarks, leaving these entrepreneurs vulnerable to legal disputes, difficulties operating in other provinces and necessitating expensive rebranding, putting them at a disadvantage to corporations in other provinces.
In 2021, BC Registries and Online Services modernized the digital experience for starting a business in B.C. This leap represents an investment in the many entrepreneurs who utilize the service to start their business in B.C. each year.
When a business wishes to operate in B.C., the first step is typically to have its name approved by BC Registry Services. The Business Registry manages the creation (incorporation and registration) and listing of businesses and organizations in British Columbia.
An entrepreneur will submit a list of three name choices, each containing a distinctive, as well descriptive element. Examiners will then determine whether the selected names conflict with any existing corporate names, within the same industry, registered within B.C. (For instance, an entrepreneur may not be able to register the sole proprietorship Poppy’s Flower Shop if Papi’s Florist Ltd. already exists.) Moreover, the examiners will evaluate whether the nature of the business requires approval from any other regulatory body. (For instance, Dr. Poppy’s Dental Clinic Ltd. would require consent from the BC College of Oral Health Professionals.)
Business name registry services help to protect the names of businesses incorporated in our province. They also create consumer confidence. British Columbians can be relatively certain that a business marketing themselves as a dentist or lawyer must possess the relevant training and credentials.
However, B.C.’s name request system leaves many entrepreneurs exposed to significant risk, because unlike other Canadian business name request services, it does not cross-reference the business name against existing Canadian trademarks.
The Nuans database is the government of Canada’s combined search tool of business names and trademarks. Nuans provides name search reports for Federally incorporated businesses and is also used as the framework for name approvals in Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Entrepreneurs registering federally, or within these five provinces will have the assurance that no existing trademarks will create legal problems for them or that their chosen business name is not in use in the provinces relying on the Nuans database.
In B.C., entrepreneurs do not have these assurances. A Nuans report may be performed separately for a small fee ($13.80 as of January 5, 2023). Many sophisticated entrepreneurs will perform one themselves, or have a legal representative perform one on their behalf. This is not the case for many entrepreneurs who are newcomers to Canada, or may be reasonably unfamiliar with the nuances of Canadian business regulation.
An entrepreneur who believes they have done everything correctly may find themselves served with a cease-and-desist letter only a few months after establishing their business. Then, in those precarious first years of business, need to undertake the expensive and laborious task of an official renaming and rebranding.
Furthermore, the B.C. name request service is experiencing major delays. This is not the case in jurisdictions which are built upon the Nuans system. (Table 1) Entrepreneurs wishing to expedite the process in B.C. (currently to 48 hours), must pay a comparatively high Priority Request fee of an additional $100.
Wait times advertised
Canada (Federal Registry)
Prince Edward Island
5 Business Days
Efforts already made by BC Registry Services to modernize and digitize service show a genuine effort to support British Columbian entrepreneurs incorporate. We believe that the logical next step is to use an existing Canadian-made tool, Nuans, to streamline the name approval process, and give B.C. entrepreneurs the certainty they deserve.
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
That the Provincial Government:
- Integrate or replace the existing BC Registry Services Name Request system with the Federal Nuans (Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search) system to:
- Reduce the risk of litigation to B.C. entrepreneurs; and
- Reduce Name Request application processing times to less than one week.
 Wait times for business name request results advertised as of March 10, 2023.
- British Columbia: https://www.BCregistry.ca/namerequest
- Canada: https://ised-isde.canada.ca/site/nuans-corporate-name-trademark-reports/en
- Ontario: https://web.archive.org/web/20230306224748/https://www.ontario.ca/page/business/start/register-your-business-online
- Prince Edward Island: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/justice-and-public-safety/guide-to-corporate-and-business-name-rules
- Alberta: https://www.alberta.ca/register-business-name.aspx