Intellectual property for small businesses in Canada

By Samantha Garner | January 9, 2021

intellectual property canada

How can you protect your small business’ intellectual property in Canada?

Let’s discuss the main ways you can protect your IP. These are: patents, copyright, trademarks, industrial design patents, integrated circuit topographies, and trade secrets.


Patents are needed for new gadgets, processes, apparatuses, products, or compositions of matter that haven’t had any previous exposure to the world. To patent an invention, it has to be the first of its kind in the world, be useful and not obvious to someone familiar with that area of expertise.

You can’t patent for an idea, an abstract theorem, a method of doing business, a medical treatment or a computer program.

A patent gives you the exclusive right to produce, manufacture, use and sell the product. However, you’ll also have to disclose all information about the design to the world. You can also patent an improvement or a refinement to a product, but you’ll have to disclose design information here too.


Copyright covers any creative work of expression (literary books/leaflets/periodicals, lectures/sermons, artistic, musical, dramatic, databases, computer programs or sound/video recording), and lasts the lifetime of the artist plus 50 years. This gives you the right to control and the right to be paid royalties.


A trademark protects an identifying mark for 15 years once registered with Strategis Canada. However, the trademark can be renewed after the 15 year period. A trademark can be obtained for anything used to distinguish you from a competitor, like a word, phrase, logo, picture, shape, design, certification mark, or even the shape of words. With this protection, nothing confusingly similar can be used legally. However, depending on your success, it may be possible to lose your trademark name. For example, Zipper, Kleenex, Band-Aid and Xerox aren’t trade names anymore because they’ve become generic household names.

Industrial design

Industrial design can cover unique ideas, features, patterns, configurations, shapes, or ornaments of an object and is protected for 10 years. The design is usually an article made by tools, machines or hand. For example, the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle or of a snowboard are both industrial designs.

Integrated circuit topographies

Integrated circuit topographies (computer chips, microchips or semiconductor chips) are protected for 10 years. You can protect against reproduction, manufacturing, importation or exploitation of an integrated circuit.

Trade secret

A trade secret is a piece of knowledge that isn’t published and is kept confidential. Some examples of trade secrets are the formula for Silly Putty, a company’s customer lists and the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Non-disclosure agreements or non-compete contracts are signed to keep these secrets a secret, and anyone could be sued for all potential damages if they have loose lips. Trade secrets never expire.

Any of these intellectual properties can be licensed instead of registered by you. In this case, you may not have enough money to register the property and you may give the right to another person or company to manufacture or sell your invention in exchange for royalties. In fact, this is done quite often. Some people also share their patents and discoveries with others to further research and design activities.

Visit the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s website for more info on intellectual property in Canada.

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How to find out if you’re ready to become an entrepreneur

By Samantha Garner | January 2, 2021

am i an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is a great dream for many Canadians. And with the recent pandemic changing the world of work, many of us have been somewhat forced into starting a side business or freelancing to help make ends meet.

The reality of entrepreneurship is hard, and many Canadians aren’t ready for it – and that’s okay! You may be ready for it later on, after life circumstances change or small business training teaches you the necessary skills you don’t have yet.

How can you find out if you’re ready to be an entrepreneur?

Download GoForth’s free Self-Assessment for Entrepreneurs to see if now is a good time to start your small business journey. We can’t predict if you’ll be a success, but taking an honest look at your situation right now will help you figure out your odds. Take your time and do as much research and training as you can before you strike out on your own – it may make all the difference to your success.

Best of luck!

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Entrepreneurship in 2020, and hope for 2021

By Samantha Garner | December 26, 2020

2020 was a rollercoaster of a year for small business. If anything, it’s taught us just how important it is to look out for each other. At GoForth, we’ve been humbled by those who care for others, and honoured by innovative people who pivoted their focus to bring solutions and help to the public.

Whatever your life looks like right now, we thank you for sticking with us, and we applaud your efforts to keep going. It was difficult for everyone, but the entrepreneurship community in Canada is resilient and supportive, and we’re proud to be a part of it.

To that end, we wanted to share some of our favourite 2020 blog posts, that we hope will be helpful going into 2021:

From all of us at GoForth, thank you.

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How small businesses can give back this holiday season

By Samantha Garner | December 19, 2020

customer satisfaction measurement

It’s no secret that this holiday season will be a tougher one for many people than before. But small businesses have a unique opportunity to help their communities this year. Here are some ways small businesses can give back this holiday season, whatever your budget.

  • Support other businesses as often as possible, both personally and on behalf of your small business.
  • Donate, whether it’s monetarily or via the goods your business makes or service you perform.
  • Show your employees a little extra love, whether it’s more holiday time off or gift cards to use at local businesses in the new year.
  • Investigate charity events your business can sponsor or participate in.
  • Consider giving away a service or resource that you might normally charge for. As an example, your photography business may post a series of “Photography Lighting Hacks” videos on YouTube or Instagram. This could have a ripple effect – maybe another small business just needs great, well-lit product photos for their website but can’t afford to hire a professional.
  • Signal boost other businesses. Make a point of highlighting the other small businesses in your area or indirect competitors in your industry. Word of mouth is a powerful thing!
  • Give referrals to other service providers as often as possible.
  • Collaborate with other businesses to offer bundled services or products. This can help promote related businesses and perhaps introduce them to potential customers who weren’t familiar with them.
  • Show your gratitude. This one might sound overly simple, but sometimes just hearing that someone out there cares can go miles in sustaining an entrepreneur’s determination.

Do you have any other suggestions that we might have missed?

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Small business blog posts we liked this week

By Samantha Garner | December 12, 2020

business trends

We hope you are finding ways to unwind and recharge this holiday season. Here are some interesting small business articles we wanted to share.

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