Lots of people ask the question: What’s in a name? Well, naming your company is an important consideration. It’s integral to your brand and identity as a company, but as you may have guessed, there are also some legal implications surrounding the language requirements in Quebec.

If you’re doing business here in Quebec and you want to incorporate, you have two choices. You can either incorporate federally under the CBCA, or provincially under the QBCA. I won’t repeat all the mechanics that go into incorporation and registration when you pick your name, but I did want to go into some language requirements relating to registering a business here in Québec.

You’ll need to think about a French name or a French-language version of your company’s name if it is in another language (like English). In fact, at the time you register to do business in Québec with the REQ, you’ll need a French-language version, whether you’ve incorporated under the QBCA or the CBCA. If you don’t have one, the REQ will not register you to do business here.

The basic rule you need to remember is that the French name must only contain words found in commonly used dictionaries, although words that are neither French nor English may also be added to the name if the REQ accepts the reason for the basis of such addition. Hence, made-up or invented words are not considered French. The big trend in naming companies lately is to take ordinary words and remove some letters, usually vowels (think Tumblr… and not Tumbler). You won’t be able to register that name (in French) in Québec, even if, for example, you’ve incorporated with that name under the CBCA (or even some place else like Delaware or Europe).

Why? That’s a long and complicated story involving compliance with the Charter of the French language. But at the end of the day, the Québec government will only communicate with your business in the French language, and therefore, a French-language version of your company’s name is required. This rule will apply regardless of jurisdiction of incorporation, because it isn’t about incorporation but rather about registration.