Trademark vs Business Name: What Is The Difference?

The Trademarks Act describes a trademark as a unique set of words, signs, symbols, sounds, designs or a combination of any of the aforementioned entities used to distinguish products and services of an individual or a business. Once listed at The Office of the Registrar of Trademarks, an exclusive right is granted to the owner of these entities, allowing them to use their trademark across Canada for an initial period of 15 years with the right to renew the registration.

A business name essentially designates the name under which a business is operated, for example, Alterra Power Corp, a renewable power generation company, which was formed by the merger of Magma Energy Corp and Plutonic Power Corp. Though the parent companies have different names, the company established after the merger is registered under the name Alterra Power Corp. A business name may or may not be trademarked but needs to be registered federally or provincially.

Despite having multiple distinctions, the two terms, trademarks and business name are frequently used interchangeably. However, it is crucial for business owners to know the difference between these two to ensure successful commercialisation of their IP. Here’s a closer look at the differences between the trademarks and business names



Business Names


Trademarks are used to identify the ‘what’ of a business.

Business names are used to define the ‘who’ of a business.


Trademarks provide protection solely for the entity which has been trademarked. The Trademarks Act clearly specifies what can and cannot be trademarked. So this means if your trademark is registered, then no one else can use the same trademark without consent or accurate licensing.

A business name makes your business identifiable. Just like how a name provides a unique identity for each individual, a business name provides a specific identity to every organization. However, registration of a business name does not guarantee protection.


Trademarks are registered with the Registrar of Trademarks.

Business names or tradenames are registered with provincial or federal bodies.


A trademark can be a business name.

A business name may or may not be eligible for a trademark.


Trademarking is a personal choice. It is not mandatory. But it can be beneficial for most established companies to have their names, products, and designs trademarked.

All business names have to be registered to comply with the legal requirements of incorporating a business in Canada.

Should you Get your Business Name Trademarked?

As mentioned previously, trademarking your business name is not a requirement. It is entirely up to you to decide whether you want to have your business names trademarked now or at a later stage. However, trademarking your business name has several benefits for your operations. It can play a role in improving your brand image and instilling a sense of trust and integrity in the products and services you trade in. It may also enhances the overall value of your business.

The process of getting your business name trademarked can be cumbersome for most business owners. Consulting a registered trademark agent can help you expedite the process and improve your chances of successful registration of your trademark.