In this article, Toronto business lawyer, Antonio DiMinno of DiMinno Rizzi Lawyers, answers the question: “What is the difference between a named vs numbered company?” 

Did you know that over 75% of entrepreneurs struggle when deciding whether to use a word name or a numbered name when they incorporate? This choice isn’t just an administrative formality.  

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, it turns out. Having advised multiple entrepreneurs, we’ve seen firsthand how this decision can shape a company’s brand identity and legal standing.  In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of a named company versus an numbered company. Based on our experience, we’ll provide insights into which choice is best given your business goals.  

Key Takeaways

  • A Numbered Company can be quickly set up and offers anonymity, simplicity, and flexibility, making it suitable for real estate, shell companies, or holding companies. However, it lacks a distinct brand identity, is less marketable, and can cause administrative and legal issues if improperly used.  
  • A Named Company provides better brand identity, but lacks privacy, takes a little longer for incorporation, and is a little more costly. It is ideal for a franchise. 
  • Opting for a Trade Name may provide the best of both worlds 
  • Decision Factors: Choose a numbered company for rapid company formation and privacy; a named company is better for establishing a brand identity. In our view, a named company is preferred in most cases. 
  • Legal Considerations: Named companies require a unique, descriptive legal name that follows certain legal standards. 
  • Adaptability: Both choices allow for future company name search and changes.  
  • Overall, the choice between a named vs. numbered company depends on the business’s specific needs. Always seek a business lawyer to assist with incorporating your business! No exceptions!

What is a Numbered Company?

Named vs. Numbered Company - What is a Numbered Company?

A numbered company receives its business identity from a unique number assigned by the government, such as “1234567 Ontario Ltd.” Rather than selecting your own distinctive legal name, this corporation number is automatically generated.

Similar to being assigned a student number in school, you as the business owner do not choose this number. The corporation number is simply the next available in the provincial sequence. This can streamline and accelerate the initial incorporation process compared to business naming. 

Make no mistake, despite lacking a formal business name, a numbered company remains a fully valid business entity as long as it includes a required corporate designator, such as “Ltd.” at the end.

When you incorporate a business, using a corporation number can lend an air of professionalism. For some entrepreneurs, foregoing an evocative brand identity in favor of simplicity may be the best option, especially if hoping to maintain privacy. 

Advantages of a Numbered Company

When advising entrepreneurs on whether to adopt a named vs numbered company, we often highlight the following advantages of a numbered company: 

  1. Administrative Simplicity: With no need to brainstorm or formally register a business name, the setup process is more straightforward. The corporation number functions like a phone number. This approach allows eager founders to rapidly launch their venture before settling on a permanent legal name. 
  1. Speed: A numbered company makes things quicker by bypassing traditional company name search and registration procedures. Much like cutting ahead in a long queue, this fast-tracks entrepreneurs to legally get up and running. 
  1. Cost Savings: By avoiding certain business naming process fees like trademark and company name searches, numbered companies carry lower initial registration costs. 
  1. Flexibility: If you decide on rebranding or pivoting the business down the road, you can can easily update the associated name.  
  1. Anonymity: Unlike descriptive names, numbered company names do not reveal any details about the founder or business activities. This privacy appeals when discretion is important. 
  1. Real Estate, Holding, & Shell Companies: Numbered companies are a popular choice when they are created solely to hold a real estate. In addition, business owners may favour numbered companies for holding companies, where they may be completing a tax re-organization and wish to have anonymity. In our experience, numbered companies are also popular for shell companies.  

Although it has less brand identity than a catchy trade name, a numbered company remains an entirely valid business entity. It is a great option for entrepreneurs looking to start ASAP.

Potential Disadvantages of a Numbered Company

While a numbered company offers some great advantages, entrepreneurs who are incorporating should also consider these potential drawbacks: 

  1. Lack of Brand Identity: Numbered company names often feel cold do not resonate with customers. Think of it as being known by an ID number rather than a legal name.
  1. Marketability Issues: A string of digits reveals nothing about a business’s offerings. Imagine a store with no signage. For companies dependent on brand identity, a numbered company is not a good choice.
  1. Memorability Challenges: A numbered company name is not memorable. This could dampen referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. 
  1. Administrative Confusion Risks: Since numbered corporations share such similar identifiers, mix-ups by owners and clients are common. Especially problematic for entrepreneurs with multiple holdings, inaccuracies on legal documents open the door to major liability. 
  1. Legal Liability: Where the legal business name is not noted on an invoice or contract, it may be assumed by the courts that the signatory has signed personally. Business owners are often reluctant to use a numbered company name on business cards, advertisements, product packaging, etc., preferring instead to use trade or brand names. This can lead to personal liability for the business owner. 

In our observations, the disadvantages of numbered company names are crucial to consider. While a numbered company is quick and easy to set up, think about how its name will impact your brand and customer interactions in the long run. 

When Should You Choose a Numbered Company vs a Named Company?

As business lawyers, we’ve seen that numbered companies can strategically empower some entrepreneurs. 

For founders who favour a rapid launch to capitalize on opportunities, an instant corporation number like “7452938 Ontario Corporation” delivers.  

Similarly, business owners who care little about marketing pizzazz but highly value privacy or streamlined tax structures may prefer the anonymity of a numbered corporation. This flexibility allows company formation that is tailored to specific needs. 

Of course, over time the situation may change. A small startup may eventually pursue brand identity for growth.

What is a Named Company?

Name vs. Numbered Company - What is a Named Company? 

A named company is just like it sounds – it’s a company registration with a unique legal name that you choose. It’s not just a string of numbers; it’s a legal name that can reflect your company identity and the services you offer. 

Choosing a named company requires thought and creativity. This business name becomes the face of your business, the first thing customers see and remember. It’s an opportunity to make a strong first impression and convey a message about your company identity. 

Whether you are incorporating a numbered company in Canada or Ontario, you need to ensure your chosen legal name is unique and not already used by another company. It’s like making sure your email address isn’t already taken. The legal name must also follow the Business Corporations Act and be approved by the government.   

Having advised many entrepreneurs, we’ve seen that a named company is a fantastic way to establish a company identity right from the start. Whether you’re aiming for something professional, bold, or meaningful, your company’s legal name is your first step to building your brand and connecting with your customers. 

Advantages of a Named Company

Choosing a word name for your company isn’t just a formality; it’s a powerful tool for your business. In our observations, here are the advantages of a named vs numbered company:

  1. Branding & Marketing: When you have a named company, you are better able to stand out in a crowded market. A well-chosen name tells customers what you do, what values you stand for, and even create a memorable image in their minds. This is very helpful for franchise goals as well.  
  1. Professionalism: A named company provides a sense of professionalism and legitimacy. 
  1. Memorability: A named company can grow with your business. Unlike a numbered company, a named company can reflect the evolving nature of your business. It’s like choosing clothes that you can wear for different occasions – your company’s name can adapt and remain relevant as your business expands and changes. 
  1. Name Protection: A named company provides protection for your corporate legal name.  

Potential Disadvantages of a Named Company

Choosing a name for your company is exciting, but has its downsides, including:

  1. Time: Firstly, corporate registration takes a little longer with a named company. It’s like trying to find a unique username for a new email account. You might come up with a great name, only to discover it’s already taken.  
  1. Legal Requirements: It’s crucial to ensure your chosen legal name doesn’t infringe on existing trademarks or isn’t already taken by an existing business entity. This can be even more difficult when you are incorporating federally (see: Federal Incorporation or Provincial Incorporation – Which is better?) It often involves legal checks, which can add to your costs and the complexity of corporate registration. Failure to adhere to business name uniqueness could put you in legal hot water.  
  1. Costs: Given the legal requirements of having a named company, your corporate registration costs will be a little higher.  
  1. Adaptability Issues: The company name you love today might not suit your business as it grows and evolves. Changing your business name later can be a hassle and may confuse your existing customers. 
  1. Privacy: Corporate registration with a specific name necessitates revealing the nature of the business, which might be unfavorable for owners who prioritize privacy. 

While a named company offers great brand identity, it’s essential to be prepared for the above potential challenges. In our view, it’s about balancing your creative vision with practical considerations for the future. 

When Should You Have a Named Company vs. a Numbered Company?

Named vs. Numbered Company
 - When Should You Have a Named Company vs a Numbered Company? 

We often recommend choosing a named company vs a numbered company when you are doing any type of marketing, your company deals with customers often, and your company enters into contracts frequently. This is most businesses! 

If you have a clear vision for your brand and want your company’s name to reflect that, then a named company is the way to go. This also applies if you’re planning to market your business widely and want a name that carries.  

In addition, if your business is in an industry where brand identity is crucial, like fashion, tech, or retail, having a named company helps you stand out.

Corporate Registration Requirements for a Named Company

When deciding on a name for your business, one must follow certain legal requirements. 

Here’s what we need to keep in mind: 

  1. Distinctiveness: The business entity name must be unique in the jurisdiction.  
  1. Descriptiveness: The business entity name should somewhat describe what the business does. 
  1. Legal Ending: There must be a suffix like “Inc.”, “Corp.”, or “Ltd.”  

Take “Momentum Capital Ltd.” for example. ” Momentum” sets it apart, “Capital” describes the business, and “Ltd.” is the legal ending.  

The named company should also follow these rules: 

  • Avoid using just a geographic or personal name
  • Keep it under 200 characters  
  • Avoid years unless it’s a successor corporation. 
  • Avoid numbers that mimic a corporation number 
  • Avoid Government department names or abbreviations 
  • Avoid the words “University” or “College”  
  • Avoid reference to Public institutions  
  • No profanity  

For named corporations, completing a NUANS report is essential to verify name availability and reserve it for 90 days. However, this reservation is solely for corporate registration and does not extend to trademark usage. This is where you want a business lawyer by your side! 

Check out this company name search tool to get a better idea of what corporate names are available: https://beta.canadasbusinessregistries.ca/search 

Choosing a business name is a crucial step, so make sure it not only sounds good but also ticks all the legal boxes. 

Using a Numbered Company with a Trade Name

Named vs. Numbered Company - Using a Numbered Company with a Trade Name 

Another option is to have a numbered company with a trade name. A trade name, also known as a “doing business as” (DBA) name, is the public name a business uses for advertising and sales The trade name is different from its legal, registered name. It’s like a nickname used for branding and customer interactions.

Choosing to incorporate as a numbered company while using a registered trade name is like having the best of both worlds. It combines the ease of a numbered corporation with the brand identity of a business name. This approach lets you handle your business under a catchy, marketable business name, while keeping the administrative side straightforward, just like a numbered company. 

When we operate with a trade name alongside our numbered company, it’s crucial to always include the full numbered company name on all client-facing materials. This means on advertisements, invoices, and other documents, you would see something like “1234567 Canada Ltd. doing business as Bob’s Coffee.” This method is important to prevent any personal liability issues. It ensures clients know they’re dealing with a corporation, not just a sole proprietorship.  

Advantages of Using a Trade Name for a Numbered Company

Incorporating a numbered company and using a unique trade name offers several benefits.  

Firstly, it bypasses the need for a NUANS (company name search) while still allowing for a distinctive brand presence. This simplifies the corporate registration process.  

Additionally, it presents a professional brand image to the public.  

Moreover, this approach provides flexibility, as you can easily switch trade names if your business direction changes, without the complexity of altering the legal company name. 

Disadvantages of Using a Trade Name for a Numbered Company

Using a trade name with a numbered company has its drawbacks.  

Firstly, you must register and protect the trade name separately, which adds an extra step in the incorporation process.  

If your brand grows significantly, you may eventually need to change the company’s legal name to align with the brand, which can be a complex process.  

Additionally, it’s important to note that registering a trade name does not provide legal protection for the name itself, unlike a trademark. This means others could potentially use a similar or identical name, which could lead to brand confusion. 

When Should I Have a Trade Name for a Numbered Company?

When we’re running multiple businesses under one corporation or want to temporarily brand an existing numbered entity, using a trade name with a numbered company is a smart move.  

However, if your trade name starts gaining significant value and recognition, it’s often wise to switch to a named corporation. This shift aligns your legal identity with your brand’s growing reputation. 

Changing Your Corporate Name

 When deciding on a named vs numbered company, rest assured that you’re not locked in forever. Changing your legal corporation name or operating name (trade name) is doable. It involves updating your Articles of Incorporation or registering a new name with the business directory. Our business lawyers can guide you through either process, making renaming your corporation a smooth transition.  

Choosing between a Named vs Numbered Company

Name vs. Numbered Company - Choosing between a Numbered Company vs. a Named Company 

In our experience, incorporating a named company is generally the preferred choice. A named company costs only a small additional fee for a company name search. However, there still may be reasons why an entrepreneur opts for a numbered corporation.  At DiMinno Rizzi, our business lawyers will help you make the decision, advise on the best legal structure, and hold your hand throughout the company formation process.  

See below for a brief summary comparing the features of a numbered company with a named company:  

Numbered Company Named Company 
Advantages ✔ Simplicity and Fast Set-Up 
✔ Cost-Effective  
✔ Name Flexibility 
✔ Anonymous Company  
✔ Stronger Company Identity  
✔ Better Branding 
✔ Professionalism 
✔ Memorability 
✔ Name Protection 
Disadvantages ✘ Lack of Brand Identity 
✘ Low Marketability  
✘ Low Memorability  
✘ Risk of Personal Liability
✘ Exposure 
✘ Administrative Issues 
✘ Risk of Contract Party Typos 
✘ Longer Incorporation Process 
✘ Higher Legal Requirements 
✘ Higher Set-Up Costs 
✘ Adaptability Issues 
✘ Privacy Concerns – Not Anonymous Lawsuit
✘ Risks if Improperly Done  
When to Use ✔ Quick Business Start 
✔ Holding Company 
✔ Holding Real Estate 
✔ Shell company  
✔ Uncertain Brand Identity 
✔ Privacy Preference 
✔ High Marketing Requirement 
✔ Frequent Customer Interaction 
✔ Frequent Invoicing/Services 
✔ Franchise Goals 
Example  1234569 Ontario Inc.  Megalodon Meats Inc. 
The examples provided above are generic in nature and may vary widely based on individual circumstances. Obtain professional legal advice prior to adopting.

How an Incorporation Lawyer Can Help

When considering a named company or a numbered company, a crucial first step is to speak to a business lawyer.  

At DiMinno Rizzi Lawyers, we offer free consultations to discuss any questions you have about legal structure, company formation, and your business entity. We’ll work closely with you to help clear the fog and ensure that your business is sailing in the right direction! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Incorporate a Business in Canada
What is a named company?

A named company is a business entity with a specifically chosen, unique legal name. This name is a key part of the company’s identity, offering a strategic advantage in marketing and customer recognition. Ideal for brand-focused businesses.

What is a numbered company?

A numbered company is a business entity identified by a sequence of numbers, assigned on corporate registration. It’s a straightforward, quick option, often preferred for its simplicity and efficiency in the corporate registration process, suitable for immediate business setup. 

How does a named company benefit my business?

A named company boosts brand recognition and credibility. It establishes a memorable company identity, fostering customer connection and loyalty. Essential for businesses that rely heavily on brand image and customer relationships for growth and success. 

Are there any advantages to a numbered company?

Numbered companies offer simplicity and rapid setup, ideal for entrepreneurs who prioritize a quick business start or prefer anonymity. They reduce the initial steps involved in naming and branding, streamlining the startup process. 

Is it more expensive to register a named company?

Registering a named company may incur extra costs for name searches and potential trademark registrations. These expenses are investments in establishing and protecting your company’s identity and legal standing. 

Can I change from a numbered to a named company later?

Transitioning from a numbered to a named company is possible. It involves selecting an available and compliant name and updating your company’s registration. This allows flexibility in branding as your business evolves. 

How does a named company impact legal contracts?

A named company can enter into contracts like any business entity. Its unique name adds professionalism and brand presence in legal and business documents, enhancing credibility and recognition in contractual dealings.

What are the risks of choosing a named company?

Risks include potential trademark infringement and the challenge of securing a unique name. Conducting thorough research and seeking legal advice are essential to navigate these risks effectively. 

Can a numbered company be as effective as a named one?

A numbered company can be effective, especially in sectors where branding is less crucial. It offers operational simplicity and efficiency, appealing to entrepreneurs focusing on quick market entry and streamlined processes. 

Should I consult a lawyer when choosing between named and numbered companies?

Consulting a lawyer is recommended for tailored advice on legal implications, name availability, and business entities. This ensures your decision aligns with your business strategy and legal requirements. 

Antonio DiMinno

About the Author

Antonio DiMinno is a business & real estate lawyer, entrepreneur, and founder of the law firm, DiMinno Rizzi Lawyers. Antonio takes pride in working differently than most law firms. He doesn’t see himself as just a lawyer, but rather a trusted business and legal advisor in your corner. His focus is helping entrepreneurs and real estate investors through practical, business-savvy, and cost-effective solutions delivered in plain English.

Book a Free Strategy Session with Antonio

Related Posts

Leave a Reply