Intellectual property for small businesses in Canada

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.

Patent

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

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.

Trademark

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 get copyright and trademark protection for your small business

Last week, we talked about how Canadian entrepreneurs can obtain a patent. This week, we’ll help you get copyright and trademark protection (you can learn about what exactly copyright and trademarks are here).

How to get a copyright in Canada

Informal copyright exists as soon as a song is sung or something is written down — in other words, as soon as it’s created. To mark the creation of a song, for example, people often will send themselves a copy of the song in the mail, keeping the envelope unopened. The date stamp on the postmark is proof of the date the letter was sent, and therefore proof of copyright. Formal registration is performed through constructive notice, which lets you claim statutory damages up to $20,000 for any copyright infringement.

The application process involves sending a completed form to CIPO’s Copyright Office, with a fee of $50 to $65. You might need to send copies of your work to the National Library of Canada. This process usually takes about four weeks. To show that you have copyright protection, you may use the copyright symbol: ©. You’ll be protected against the copying, reproduction, publishing and performing of your creative work. Once you get it, your registered copyright protects you in most other countries of the world.

How to get a trademark in Canada

We have some good news — the process for registering a trademark is way more simple than the process of getting a patent. You may want to hire an agent to help you with the process. To register your trademark, do your research to make sure nothing similar is already in use. You can do this on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) website.

If it’s all clear, your next step is to file an application to be published in CIPO’s Trade-marks Journal to see if anyone opposes it. The process usually takes about a year to get registered and costs around $450 to $500. Once registered, your trademark will be protected in Canada. You can show your trademark registration through the use of the following symbols: TM, ®.

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Intellectual property protection for small businesses

intellectual-property-protectionThe main forms of protecting your intellectual property are: patents, copyright, trademarks, industrial design patents, integrated circuit topographies and trade secrets.

Patent

If you’ve finally reinvented the wheel, you’ll probably need a patent. Patents are needed for new gadgets, processes, apparatuses, products or compositions of matter that have had no previous exposure to the world. To patent an invention, it must be the first of its kind in the world, be useful and must not be obvious to someone familiar with that area. You can’t get a patent for an idea, an abstract theorem, a method of doing business, a medical treatment or a computer program.

A patent will give 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

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.

Trademark

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. In order to register, you must send an application to the CIPO’s Registrar of Topographies within two years of the first use.

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.

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