Intellectual property (hereinafter “IP”) is at the heart of innovation and is intended to protect and defend the fruits of an entrepreneur’s efforts. There are various types of IP, so its’ most common forms should be examined in order to identify the proper protection mechanisms for your business.
Consumers recognize trademarks. They protect the business’ distinctive image as opposed to its competitors when it sells its goods or services. A trademark is often composed of words or designs, or a combination of the two.
Registration: A trademark can be registered with the Intellectual Property Office (hereinafter the “Office”). Registration is not mandatory, but it allows the owner to preserve its rights in the mark across the country. Furthermore, an owner who has registered a trademark in Canada has the exclusive right to use it throughout the country. An owner can stop third parties from using the mark without authorization for all products and services listed in the registration.
Examples: Words, slogans, logos, animated or not, numbers, colours, etc.
Copyright protects the integrity of original works, be they literary, artistic, musical, or dramatic. It is the ideal form of IP to protect computer software source codes.
Registration: An original work is copyright protected as soon as it is transposed to a medium. As a general rule, it is protected for up to 50 years following the author’s death, even if not registered. It is strongly recommended to register copyright with the Office, because the certificate issued to the author will serve as proof in the event of unauthorized use of the work. The work’s content should also be documented, for example, by filing a copy with a notary.
Examples: Computer programs, songs, soundtracks, lyrics, films, screenplays, videos, books, brochures, texts, etc.
Patents guarantee new inventions a time-limited exclusivity. To be patented, an invention must not only be novel, but not obvious and useful as well.
Registration: An innovation must be patented to be protected. The process begins by filing a patent application with the Patent Office, which will grant the patent once the application has been approved by an examiner. Once obtained, the owner has an exclusive right to manufacture, sell or import for a period of 20 years as of the date the patent is granted.
Examples: Polymerization processes, motorized systems, medical accessories, communications technologies, etc.
An industrial design is the visual equivalent of a patent. While patents apply to the functionality of objects, industrial designs offer time-limited protection to the object’s original visual features, including its shape, configuration and ergonomics. The registered design, however, must pertain to the object’s esthetic or decorative aspect. To be eligible, designs cannot be identical to another previously registered design in Canada.
Registration: As with patents, an industrial design must be registered for it to be legally protected. Once this formality has been completed, the Office issues a certificate to the owner that prohibits any person, without the owner’s consent, from manufacturing, importing, selling or leasing an object with the same specifications throughout the limited protection period, which is 10 years in Canada.
Examples: Shape of a device, object or visible part of an object, appearance of a computer interface, etc.