You have a great idea… an invention… a brand. How do you protect your work? How do you prevent others from copying it?
Intellectual property refers to the legal right to creations, ideas and inventions. These are your intellectual or intangible assets. They add value to your business – and you can use the law to protect them.
This post will focus on three main types of intellectual property – patents, copyrights and trademarks.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) offers a wealth of information for individuals and businesses on the topic. You can also submit applications for all three types of property through their website.
The post will explore: Patents, Trademarks, Copyrighting
WHAT IS A PATENT?
A patent is a right to make, use or sell an invention in Canada. If you are granted a patent from the government, you have right to exclude others from making or using your invention.
EXAMPLE: You create a new app. A patent would prevent another company from copying that technology and selling it as their own.
YOU SHOULD APPLY FOR A PATENT IF: You have developed a new technology, machine, process or product.
There are three main REQUIREMENTS for a patent application.
- You must have a NEW invention.
- The invention must have a USEFUL FUNCTION (it must actually work!).
- It must be INVENTIVE (it can’t be something that would be obvious to others in your field.)
HOW TO APPLY: The process is fairly complicated, so you may consider working with a Patent Agent. You can search for an agent and submit an application on the CIPP website.
COST: Several thousand dollars. (Depends on the situation, and if you work with an agent.)
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST? The patent will apply within Canada for 20 years from the date you file your application.
WHAT ARE TRADEMARKS? Trademarks are words, phrases, or designs that distinguish your brand, and help the public to recognize it
EXAMPLE: The Nike “swoosh”. You see the swoosh and think: Nike.
HOW TO APPLY:
Start by searching existing trademarks to check whether your trademark could be confused with someone else’s. You can do a search through the Canadian Trademarks Database.
Then, you can file online through the Office of the Registrar of Trademarks.
You may consider hiring a registered trademark agent to advise you and help you through the process.
COST: file online for $250, Registration is $200.
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST? A trademark gives you exclusive rights across Canada for 15 years and may be renewed indefinitely.
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT? The right to produce, copy or perform a literary, or artistic work. If someone wants to use your work, they need to get your permission.
EXAMPLE: You write a book. If someone wants to make copies of your book – they need to get your permission, or purchase it from you. If they copy without your permission, this is copyright infringement.
HOW TO APPLY: You do not need to register or apply – it is automatic. However, you may wish to register your copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Registration would provide you with a certificate that could be used as evidence in court (in case of infringement).
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST? Copyright exists in Canada during your lifetime and for 50 years following your death.
Depending on your business, you may use one or all of these types of intellectual property to protect yourself and your brand.
Scarlett O’Shea is a student at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She is interning with Women in Biz Network for the summer and will be blogging about business law.