Protecting your intellectual property

Understanding how to protect one’s intellectual property is essential to protect your ideas.

Understanding how to protect one’s intellectual property is essential for Canadian businesses – it can help you protect your ideas and prevent you from accidentally violating someone else’s.

Intellectual property (IP) can:

  • Prevent competitors from using and selling your business's products or services.
  • Help differentiate your offering.
  • Support your business’s expansion into new territories.

Patents

Through a patent, the government gives an inventor the right to stop others from making, using, or selling a particular invention for a maximum of 20 years after the day the patent application was filed.

A patent can cover:

  • A new invention.
  • A process.
  • Machines.
  • Manufacture.
  • Composition or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention.

It doesn’t need to be a product that you sell. It could be any innovation that adds value to your business – for instance, a process that you use in production.

Because the rights to a patent are transferrable, you can profit by selling it, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding. If your business has patented processes or systems, it can increase the sale value of your enterprise.

Trademarks

A trademark is often defined as a:

  • Word.
  • Phrase
  • Design – or a combination of these.

It can be used to identify goods or services, and to distinguish them from others in the marketplace. A trademark can include your company name, logo, or the branding of a particular product or service.

Register your trademark

It’s not always necessary to formally register your trademark, as evidence of prolonged use can demonstrate ownership. However, for extra protection you can register a trademark in Canada for 15-year renewal periods.

A trademark can help create value for your business or brand – whether it’s a farm, legal practice or other service.

Be careful not to violate other copyrights

Businesses also have to be alert that they don’t violate the patents or copyright of others. This often happens inadvertently, when enterprises don’t have a full understanding of the law.

You need to ensure, for instance, that you have the legal right to use a photo in a brochure – so if you want to produce pamphlets or advertisements for your professional practice, consider this as you create these pieces.

If you own a shop or restaurant that plays music, you’ll need to acquire a license from the Society of Composers, Authors and Musicians of Canada (SOCAN) to do so. Use only licensed software and make sure your employees are cautioned or prevented from storing unlicensed works on office computers.

By knowing the rules about patents and copyright, you can protect your own works and innovation as well as shield your business from legal difficulties. If you’re seeking to protect your innovations or require further clarity on intellectual property matters, remember to consult with a legal professional for advice.

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