Intellectual property (IP) is becoming increasingly valuable in our innovative society. Everyone wants to come up with the next ‘big’ invention or start-up company. If you think your idea will help solve problems or promote efficiency, then you want to make sure it’s protected. This is where IP laws, such as patent, trademark, and copyright law, come into play. In Canada, intellectual property laws protect your creations by providing you with exclusive use over them.
Step 1: Develop your idea
The first step in protecting your great idea is to create it. Anyone can think of a great idea, but not everyone can bring it to life. IP laws protect intangible assets; however, they do not protect ideas. For example, if you have an idea for a novel you think would be very successful, that idea is not protected just because you thought of it. To prevent someone else from using that idea, you must first write the book. Once your idea is manifested through your novel, it can be protected.
Step 2: Obtain the right type of protection
Now that you’ve created your idea, you need to figure out which type of IP protection applies. There are three main ways to protect your IP: (1) through copyright ownership; (2) by applying for a patent; and (3) by registering it as a trademark.
If you created a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work, such as a painting, song, or novel, then it will automatically be protected by copyright. You will own the copyright to your work, meaning no one else can create, recreate, perform, or publish it without your permission. You can also register your work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to have proof that you own the copyright.
If you invented or created a new use for a product, then you need to apply for a patent to obtain exclusive rights to your invention. Once your patent is granted, no one else can make or use your invention without your permission. You can apply for a patent on the Government of Canada’s website to protect your invention in Canada. However, if you want to protect your invention in other countries, you must apply directly through their intellectual property offices, or through the Patent Cooperation Treaty for countries with membership.
If your creation is a sign, symbol, or brand, then it’s a trademark and you will need to register it with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to obtain exclusive rights to it. To obtain protection in other countries, you must register your trademark with them directly.
It’s important to create your idea as soon as possible, especially if you plan to apply for a patent or register a trademark, to ensure someone else doesn’t create it first.