Trade Names are not a Game

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March 4, 2021
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Trade Names are not a Game

In my younger years, I recall hearing the song the name game, by Shirley Ellis [Soul Rocket. “Shirley Ellis – The Name Game” YouTube]. It is the song where you take a person’s name, drop the first letter of the name, and make a rhyme by adding some catchy wording like “bo-na-na fanna” and “fee fi”. Thinking back the song took ordinary names and made them interesting and memorable.

In business, people and companies also look for catchy names to make them memorable and stand out from the crowd of their competitors. As exciting as “Les Scholly, Plumber” sounds, “Royal Flush Plumbing” is likely more memorable and recallable.

A sole proprietor, partnership or corporation can utilize a trade name in carrying on business. An example you might see is where a corporation is a numbered company, i.e.: 123456 Alberta Ltd. operating as Royal Flush Plumbing. The trade name (sometimes called the business name) should be registered to restrict others from using the same (or similar name) in the geographic area of your business. You do not want to start using a business name and spending money on advertising, business cards and invoices only to find out some else in your business area is using the same or similar name and wants you to stop.

The steps to register a trade name are straight forward.

Picking the name you want to use is likely the hardest part. I recommend having several names to choose from in case there are other businesses in your business area or province already using a similar name.

Next, your lawyer can conduct a NUANs search Nuans, is the acronym for Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search. Typically, you search the name(s) in the Province you are doing business, like Alberta. If you anticipate your business
operating or expanding, searches could be done in other provinces or you can search Canada wide.

If you plan to operate in Alberta and the NUANS search result shows your proposed name is unique, you can then take steps to register it. The government of Alberta website is a great reference to walk you through the process

In the overview of the government web page, it states “registering a business name does not grant any right of ownership of the name. It is simply proof that the name is being used by a particular business”. For most businesses, this is sufficient protection. For greater protection, the corporation can be named the business name, Royal Flush Plumbing Ltd. (or Inc.).

Sometimes there can be challenges where an Alberta business expands and conduct business in another province, like Saskatchewan, only to find out that their Alberta name is too similar to the name of an existing Saskatchewan business. What do you do? The company may consider relying on its numbered company Alberta name – without using their trade name. The company “name” 123456 Alberta Ltd. can be registered in Saskatchewan or another province. Alternatively, the company could register a different trade name in to operate in the new province, while still being only 1 company. See my previous article on

In conclusion, developing your catchy business name can be important to the success of your business. Talk to your “fi-fi-fo-awyer” about how they can help you protect your tradename at the start.

Les Scholly helps you navigate the turning points of life. He is a partner with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP and a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Contact Les at (403) 527-4411 or at

Les Scholly
Les Scholly helps you navigate the turning points of life. He is a partner with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP and member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Contact Les at 403-527-4411 or at