So you have come up with an amazing idea. You have probably shared it with your family, friends and colleagues. But did you think about protecting your intellectual property first?
What is Intellectual Property?
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) defines intellectual property (IP) as creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.
Or to be more general: knowledge that has a value to your competitors.
It is important to protect this knowledge, as it is the differentiator which can make you stand out from competitor or an asset which you can sell.
Types of Intellectual Property Protection
In Canada, IP assets can be protected by:
- Patents (new inventions and improvements to an existing invention)
- Trade-marks (words, symbols or designs which are used to differentiate the products or services of a business from competitors)
- Copyrights (literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works and computer programs)
- Industrial designs (visual features of a product including its shape, configuration, pattern or look)
Personal knowledge of employees and trade secrets (processes, formulas, codes etc), are forms of IP that are not protected by formal legislation, but are provided a national and international value.
For information on how to obtain IP protection, visit the CIPO website.
Protecting Your Assets
Violation of a patent, trade-mark, copyright, or industrial design can occur when an individual or business uses your IP asset with seeking authorization. This can include: a business selling your invention, an author plagiarising your book or a company using your logo as their own.
Should your IP be violated the first course of action should be to consult a legal advisor or IP agent for advice. They will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether infringement has taken place, that your IP paperwork is in order, and consider your probabilities of success should you take legal action.
For a list of IP agents visit the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada website.
Benefits of Establishing Intellectual Property
As mentioned earlier, the strategic management of IP can provide your company with a competitive advantage. It is, therefore, important for you to take a proactive approach in ensuring the assets of your business are covered, kept up-to-date and that regular checks are made to combat infringement.
Key benefits of establishing and maintaining your IP protection include:
- Allows you to licence or sell your work and profit from creative efforts
- Prevents competitors from copying or closely imitating your products or services
- Protects your unique identity, image and ultimately your reputation
- Helps you build trust and loyalty with your client base, in turn helping you establish a unique brand or image
Is Canadian IP Protection Valid in other Countries?
Although the majority of countries have laws protecting IP, they each differ in terms of assets that they cover, and the rights of the business owner. With the exception of Copyright, IP protection is only valid for the country in which you acquired it. Therefore if you are looking to export your products to another country you will be required to research and file for IP protection in that country.
For more information about acquiring IP as an export business visit CIPO’s website.
Small Business BC offers a number of services to help you understand the value and the process of establishing IP for your small business, including:
- Upcoming seminars on intellectual property protection
- Ask a Lawyer – a one-on-one consultation with a lawyer where you can ask the specific legal questions you have for your individual business needs.