Protecting Your Ideas Using Canadian Intellectual Property Rights

In today’s fast-developing economy, original ideas are often seen as the new currency. Applying innovative thinking to your business can give you the competitive advantage, and can provide an enormous opportunity for profit.

If you have a great idea, your competitors may be tempted to use it, too, so it’s important to learn why protecting your ideas is so important. But do you know how to actually use intellectual property rights?

Make sure you know the next steps to protecting yourself and your business with this Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) guide here.

What is Intellectual Property in Canada?

Intellectual property is a creation of the mind and is intangible, such as art and literature, designs and symbols, business names and inventions. The creator has rights to their intellectual property, and they may choose to protect these rights using intellectual property laws.

For example, if a recent painting appears in a book, the reproduced print is still protected by the painting’s rights. The work of art is intellectual property, not the original canvas and paint.

How to Use Intellectual Property Laws


Patents gives you the exclusive ability to stop other people from producing, using or selling your inventions. Inventions can include innovative processes, machines, technology, products and innovations made to existing inventions.

You should know:

  • The government protects your patent within Canada for 20 years.
  • Your application is available to the public after 18 months of filing.
  • Patents are only granted to the first applicant.
  • Whether disclosing your invention to the public will stop you from being able to file a patent.
  • Details of filing a patent abroad may vary from Canadian intellectual property laws.

You can read more about public disclosure and international intellectual property laws abroad here.

Industrial Designs

An industrial design is the distinctive appearance of a product, including the shape, pattern, ornament or combination of features applied to a finished work. Designs like bottle shapes or patterns can provide a competitive advantage because consumers can easily distinguish your product from others in the market.

You should know:

  • Registering an industrial design gives you exclusive rights to stop others from using it.
  • You can also sell your rights or license others to make, use and sell your design.
  • Submit your application to register your design as soon as possible.
  • Once your application has been published, you only have one year to file for registration in Canada.

You can learn more about industrial design registration and due dates here.


Trademarks protect your original combination of letters, words, sounds or designs that characterize your business’ goods or services from other’s goods or services in the market. Over time, these trademarks may come to represent your business’ brand and reputation, as well.

You should know:

  • This intellectual property law can stop other businesses from misusing your trademark.
  • The Government of Canada protects trademarks for 15 years, and can be renewed.

You can find more details on trademarks here.


A copyright gives you the exclusive right to produce or reproduce your work or a significant part of it, in any form. This work can include excerpts from speeches to miniature reproductions of statues. It protects literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works and other subject matter performed by the creator.

You should know:

  • Your original work is generally automatically protected by copyright as soon as it’s created.
  • The Canadian Intellectual Property Office can issue you a certificate of ownership that can be used as evidence in court that you own it.
  • Your copyright exists in Canada during your lifetime and for 50 years after your death.
  • After that period, the work is generally in the public domain and can be used by anyone.

Learn more information on copyrights and protecting these types of work here.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a piece of business information that is valuable because it is secret and not known to the public or competitors. A trade secret could include a sales process, manufacturing method, client list or product formula, such as KFC’s batter recipe.

You should know:

  • The Canadian government has no formal intellectual property process to protect trade secrets.
  • Businesses must take all possible measures to ensure that the informal remains secret.
  • Some ways to keep your information confidential are to use methods like non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality clauses, encryption and password protection.

You can read more about protecting your trade secrets here.