The 6 Pillars of Intellectual Property for Canadian Businesses

Intellectual property (IP) is a valuable asset for any business, especially for startups and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the innovation sector. IP can take different forms, for example: patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs, plant breeder rights, data and confidential information (i.e., trade secrets). In this blog, we will demystify the main forms of intellectual property and provide some general information to help Canadian businesses protect their innovation.

Patents: A patent is a government-granted exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, selling, and importing an invention for a certain period of time. This can include products, processes, and compositions of matter, as well as improvements thereto. In Canada, patents are granted by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and are valid for 20 years from the date of filing. Before filing a patent application, it is important to conduct a patent search to ensure that your invention is new and non-obvious. This can save you time and money in the long run.

Trademarks: A trademark is a sign that is used to distinguish the goods or services of one business from another. This can include words, logos, or even sounds and smells. In Canada, trademarks are granted by the CIPO and are valid for 10 years from the date of registration, with the option to renew indefinitely. Before choosing a trademark, it is important to conduct a trademark search to ensure that it is not already in use by another business. This can prevent future legal disputes.

Copyrights: Copyright is a form of legal protection for original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as sound recordings, performances, and communications signals. In Canada, copyrights are automatically granted to the creator of the work and last for the life of the author plus 70 years. In Canada, copyright applies to any original work that is fixed in a material form, which includes digital works such as software, websites, and e-books. To protect your copyrighted work, consider registering it with the CIPO or using the copyright symbol © followed by your name and the year of creation.

Industrial designs: Industrial designs are the original and/or “distinctive and attractive” features of a product; its appearance. When you register your industrial design, you gain exclusive, legally enforceable rights for up to 10 years in Canada. 

Plant Breeder Rights: Plant breeders’ rights (PBR) allow plant breeders to protect new varieties of plants. When a PBR certificate is granted, the rights holder has legal protection in the marketplace and may seek compensation if the variety is used without authorization. To be protected by PBR, a variety must be new, distinct, uniform in its characteristics, and stable in that the variety must express the same characteristics from generation to generation. 

Trade Secrets: A trade secret is any information that is not generally known and that gives a business a competitive advantage. This can include things like customer lists, business plans, and formulae. In Canada, trade secrets are protected by the courts under the common law of confidential information. To protect your trade secrets, consider implementing strict confidentiality agreements with employees and business partners and implementing security measures to prevent unauthorized access to your confidential information.

In conclusion, patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs, PBR and trade secrets are all important pillars of intellectual property that can help Canadian businesses protect their innovation. By understanding the basics of each of these pillars, implementing useful tips and best practices, businesses can safeguard their valuable assets and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

To learn more about intellectual property, join us at FORPIQ 2023.

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