You may have heard about patents, trademarks, copyrights, and even industrial designs, and had always wondered what they are.
Intellectual property is a funny thing: you can’t touch it, but you can sell it, give it away, and even retire from the income generated by it. It’s as important as your other tangible assets, and as an entrepreneur it’s important to at least know about the different forms of intellectual property rights available in Canada.
In general, a patent is an monopoly right granted to an inventor of an invention so that the inventor can make, use, or sell the invention for a certain period of years exclusively. In return, the inventor teaches society his invention so that anyone can make or use the invention after the inventor’s monopoly period is over.
A trademark (called a trade-mark in Canada) is a distinctive name (or graphic, or both) which you use to distinguish your products or services from those of someone else. A trademark can be registered or unregistered. Unlike patents, a trademark registration can be repeatedly renewed.
Copyright protects the expression of an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. The definition of a “work” is broad, and includes obvious ones like paintings, photos, movies, and sound recordings, and also non-obvious ones like maps, plans, tables, manuals, recorded lectures, an oral interview written down, computer programs, and even compilations of other works, as long as it is non-trivial and non-mechanical.
Other Intellectual Property Rights
An industrial design protects externally visible non-utilitarian aesthetic features that are applied to useful articles.
There are many other less used intellectual property rights in Canada as well, such as Plant Breeders’ Rights, specific protection for Integrated Circuit Topographies, the Tort of Misappropriation of Personality, and Distinguishing Guise. Depending on your circumstances, one or more of the above can apply to protect your business and creative output.