Intellectual Property: the Basics

It is easy to get confused between the different types of intellectual property out there. Your IP assets are however crucial and should be demystified.  We have therefore decided to kick off our blog section with a primer on Canadian intellectual property.

Of course, please take this as legal information and not legal advice. If you have any questions regarding your intellectual property or would like our help to protect it, send us an email at


1) Copyright

Copyright is defined as “the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work.” This type of work includes songs, paintings, books, scripts, plays, etc. Copyright exists from the very moment you create an original work. No action on your part is therefore required to receive copyright protection.

You can however register your copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. By doing so, you will receive a certificate attesting that you are the rightful owner of the copyright, which can be used in court as proof of ownership it in case of any copyright violation.

Copyright in Canada subsists for 50 years following the copyright owner’s death before ending up in the public domain.


2) Trademarks

 Trademarks are used to distinguish one company’s good and services from another’s. Trademarks can be composed of letters, words, sounds or designs. For instance, the word “Apple” is registered as a trademark and so are Apple’s products such as the iPhone, the iPad and so forth.

Although use over a certain period of time may confer ownership over a trademark, trademarks should be registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, as registration is evidence of ownership (such proof could save you a lot of trouble if another company happens to use your trademark or a very similar one). Registering your trademark will confer you the exclusive right to use your trademark throughout Canada for 15 years (renewable term).


3) Patents

 Patents protect inventions (this includes products, compositions, machines, processes, etc.). Being granted a patent allows you to exclusively make, use, and sell said invention for 20 years.

 Of course, not all inventions are patentable. Your invention needs to be 1) new, 2) useful, and 3) inventive. If you have a complete invention on your hand that you think is patentable, you should file for a patent as quickly as possible, as the first applicant to file an application is entitled to obtaining the patent.


4) Industrial designs

 Industrial designs protect the distinctive-looking visual features of a product. For instance, innovative looking jewelry can be granted industrial design protection. However, your design must be completely original.

Registration allows you to obtain the exclusive right over a design for 10 years in Canada. This means you can use and sell the design, but also license it to other companies.

We hope this post has demystified intellectual property for you. Once again, please take this as legal information and not legal advice. If you have any questions regarding the protection of your intellectual property, send us an email at or click here to schedule a consultation.

About the author