What is a NUANS Name Search and When Do I Need One?
- Name Searches
- Free Searches
- What are NUANS® and CIDREQ?
- Preliminary Searches
- Full NUANS®/CIDREQ Searches
1. Name Searches – The First Step to Protecting Your Business or Corporate Name
Once you have created a name for your business, you should protect your legal right to its use by registering it as a corporate name, business name or trademark. Before you invest any time or money in the registration or trademark process, it is strongly recommended that you, or an agent acting on your behalf (i.e. an accredited search house such as New Business Now.com), conduct one or more name searches to ensure that your prospective name is available for your use.
If you plan to incorporate your business – either provincially or federally – you will be required to arrange for the completion of some type of search and reservation of your proposed name. In most cases, the search results must accompany your application for incorporation. Each jurisdiction has very specific rules which outline what type of name search is acceptable. The following table lists the name search/reservation requirements by jurisdiction:
|Federal (Canada)||Canada biased NUANS® Search|
|Alberta||Alberta biased NUANS® Search|
|British Columbia||British Columbia Name Reservation|
|Manitoba||Manitoba Name Reservation|
|New Brunswick||Atlantic biased NUANS® Search|
|Newfoundland||Newfoundland Name Reservation|
|Northwest Territories||Northwest Territories Name Reservation|
|Nova Scotia||Nova Scotia Name Reservation|
|Nunavut||Nunavut Name Reservation|
|Ontario||Ontario biased NUANS® Search|
|Prince Edward Island||Prince Edward Island Name Reservation|
|Quebec||Quebec CIDREQ Search|
|Saskatchewan||Saskatchewan Name Reservation|
|Yukon||Yukon Name Reservation|
Although certain Provinces do not require that a name search be completed prior to registration of an unincorporated business name, it is in your best interest to search your business name. Completion of a name search will ensure your business name’s uniqueness and it can protect you from legal liability which could arise from a confusingly similar name being used by two or more companies operating in a similar line of business in the same geographic area.
Currently there are three general types of name searches used in Canada although, as previously mentioned, some variations exist in certain provinces.
The three principal types of name search are (in ascending order of effectiveness and cost):
- Free Searches
- Preliminary Searches
- Full NUANS®/CIDREQMD Searches
2. Free Searches
Anyone can perform a free search by checking various resources available to the public, such as Google, Yellow Pages, phone directories and computerized directories such as Canada 411. The availability of prospective domain names can be searched by completing a free domain search here. Searching prospective name(s) yourself, before retaining professional services, could reveal potential conflicts immediately, without incurring any expense.
Before preliminary searches and full searches are discussed, it is important to know…
3. What are NUANS® and CIDREQ?
NUANS® is an acronym that stands for Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search. Quite simply, NUANS® is a computerized search system that compares prospective business or corporate names to a database of existing, reserved and proposed corporate names and trademarks in all of Canada, except the Province of Quebec. In Quebec, the equivalent system is called CIDREQMD (Centre Informatique du Registre des Entreprises du Québec). CIDREQMD is owned by the Gouvernement du Québec and operated under the auspices of the Quebec Registrar of Enterprises (Registraire des enterprises).
IMPORTANT! Please do not make the mistake of considering NUANS® as the “English” Search and CIDREQMD as the “French” Search. Both systems include English and French names; NUANS® and CIDREQMD are geographically different. Think of them as NUANS® (Canada except Quebec) and CIDREQMD (Quebec only), as opposed to English and French, respectively.
It should be noted that CIDREQMD was not established until December 31, 1993. Prior to that date, Quebec names were included on the NUANS® system. It is therefore possible to find the names of some Quebec companies and trademarks when searching the NUANS® system; however, the information on those companies will not have been updated since that cut-off date and, as a result, should not be considered accurate.
If a federal corporation will be located in, or will be conducting business in Quebec, it is strongly recommended that both the NUANS® and CIDREQMD systems be searched.
Access to NUANS® and CIDREQMD is limited to licensed search houses and is provided by Industry Canada and the Quebec Registrar of Enterprises, respectively. Reports generated by these systems are regarded as the final authoritative searches required for incorporation federally and in most provinces (as mentioned above, some exceptions apply).
It should be noted that the software used by NUANS® and CIDREQMD is sophisticated and intelligent, in that it searches and compares names and trademarks in many different ways, such as phonetics, word length, synonymous terms and varying name formulations. This should serve to reassure the registrant/incorporator that his or her prospective name is being considered from as many aspects of potential conflict as possible.
The NUANS® and CIDREQMD search systems produce reports that list the names they find to be most similar to the prospective one submitted. Competent, professional legal counsel should be retained to determine the potential risk and liability that may arise from any such similarities.
IMPORTANT TIP! Before conducting any search, it is advisable to have two or more prospective names ready, in case the first one or two prove to be unavailable.
4. Preliminary Searches
If a free search has revealed no conflicting names, a search house should be retained to perform a preliminary search on the NUANS® and/or CIDREQMD systems. Preliminary searches are completed free of charge as an initial component of all NUANS® and CIDREQMD searches offered by New Business Now.com.
5. Full NUANS®/CIDREQ Searches
Once a preliminary search is completed, if the name appears to be available for incorporation or registration, a full NUANS® or CIDREQMD can search be initiated. This can usually be completed online, at a minimal cost and with a very quick (2-4 hour) turnaround.
As previously mentioned, the NUANS®/CIDREQMD report that is generated will include all potential conflicts that may be a barrier to acceptance of your prospective name(s). Your lawyer or search house will examine the report to determine:
- Whether or not an identical or confusingly similar name exists or has been proposed or reserved by another person or company
- The relative strengths and weaknesses of your prospective name
- Whether or not there is a reasonable risk of objection to your prospective name
- Whether or not your chosen name appears to be available for registration/incorporation/trademarking
When it comes to your business or corporate name or trademark, SEARCH IT BEFORE YOU USE IT!
The information presented in the document above is provided for reference purposes only and is
not intended to be a substitute for the appropriate legal advice of a competent, professional lawyer.
NUANS® and CIDREQMD are registered trademarks/sont des marques déposées of the
Government of Canada/du Gouvernement du Québec respectively.