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This guide provides you with an introduction to patents and patenting procedures. It will help you understand what patents are and get started with your patent application. This electronic version of the guide is the official version. If there are inconsistencies between this guide and the applicable legislation, the legislation must be followed. Read our terms and conditions. Although this guide is not a complete text on patent laws or a substitute for professional advice from a registered patent agent, we have deed it as an introduction to patents and patenting procedures.

Technologically sophisticated nations like Canada depend on the patent system for scientific advancement and economic strength. By giving inventors monopolies on their creations for a specific time period, patents protect investments and allow inventors to profit financially from their creativity. This gives an attractive incentive for research and development, which ultimately benefits all Canadians. Without the possibility of patent protection, many people might not take the risk of investing the time or money needed to create or perfect new products. Without such activity, our economy would suffer.

Patents do more than make money and encourage creativity, however. They are also a way for people to share cutting-edge information. Each patent document describes a new aspect of a technology in clear and specific terms and is available for anyone to read. This makes them vital resources for businesses, researchers, academics and others who need to keep up with developments in their fields. Through a patent, the government gives you, the inventor, the right to stop others from making, using or selling your invention from the day the patent is granted to a maximum of 20 years after the day on which you filed your patent application.

In exchange, you must provide a full description of the invention so that all Canadians can benefit from this advance in technology and knowledge. Patent applications are open to public inspection 18 months from the earlier of:.

People may then read about your invention, though they cannot make, use or sell it without your permission. You can also use your patent to make a profit by selling it, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding. The rights given by a Canadian patent extend throughout Canada, but not to other countries.

You must apply for patent rights in other countries separately. Likewise, foreign patents do not protect an invention in Canada. People occasionally confuse patents with trademarks, copyrights, industrial des and integrated circuit topographies. Like patents, these others are rights granted for intellectual creativity and are forms of IP.

However, there are important differences:. You may be tempted to protect your creation by simply keeping its information secret and selling the creation. The information is then known as a trade secret. The recipe for Coca-Cola is an example of a trade secret. You will run into problems, however, if another person independently invents or discovers the subject matter of your trade secret. There is nothing to prevent that person from using it, applying for a patent or publishing the information.

The benefit of keeping a trade secret is that you do not have to make your innovation public as you do when you are granted a patent. Suppose you are the proud inventor of an electric door lock. How do you know if you can get a patent for it?

There are three basic criteria for patentability—novelty, utility and inventiveness:. Although you may obtain a patent for an improvement to an existing invention, keep in mind that the original patent may still be in force. If this is the case, manufacturing or marketing the product with your improvement may be an infringement of the original patent. This situation is often resolved by agreement between the patentees the people who own the patents to grant licences to each other.

If you believe that this is a concern with your invention, you should discuss it with a patent agent. A patent is granted only for the physical embodiment of an idea for example, the description of a possible door lock or for a process that produces something tangible or that can be sold. You cannot patent a scientific principle, an abstract theorem, an idea, some methods of doing business or a computer program. Although computer code by itself is not something physical and therefore not patentable by law, a computer program may offer a new and inventive solution to a technological problem by modifying how the computer works.

Under these circumstances, a computer-implemented invention may be patentable. In Canada, patents are granted to the first inventor to file an application, so it is smart to file as soon as possible after you complete your invention in case someone else is on a similar track.

Even if you can prove that you were the first to think of the invention, you lose the race if a competing inventor files before you do. However, filing while you are still developing your invention may mean missing important features from the patent application.

You may then have to reapply, adding to your expenses and risking possible patent disputes. Again, it is very important not to advertise or disclose information about your invention before you are ready to file for a patent. Public disclosure of your invention before filing for a patent may make it impossible to obtain a valid patent and jeopardize the possibility of you receiving similar rights in other countries.

With so much information stored in each patent, it is not surprising that CIPO has the largest collection in Canada of current technological know-how from around the world. CIPO's data holdings contain more than two million Canadian patent publications grants and open to public inspection applications , most of which are searchable on our website or by doing an in-person search at the CIPO Client Service Centre. Many of these patents are for "end-of-the-line" improvements on inventions that have been around for decades.

But some are pioneering inventions that have opened up whole new fields in technology. Electronics, for example, started with a patent on a vacuum tube. The information in these patents not only covers every conceivable field, but is also possibly the most up-to-date information available. This is because patent applications are generally made public 18 months after filing. One of CIPO's goals is to make patent information available to Canadian industries, universities and research centres to help them keep abreast of innovations.

The information can be especially useful to small and medium-sized businesses because it enables them to conduct their own research easily and inexpensively. Not taking advantage of CIPO resources could cost you time and money, especially if you end up reinventing the wheel. A ificant amount of all research and development in Canada does just that by duplicating patented technology. A search of the patent literature may prevent this kind of wasted effort. Learning about the existing solutions to certain technical problems can also give you ideas for better inventions.

In almost any field, some work has already been done somewhere. Perhaps the solution to the problem exists in a foreign patent that you can use freely here in Canada. Patent documents can also reveal trends and sources of new products, show what the competition is doing at home and abroad, and help you find new suppliers, markets or know-how that you can use under licence. If you are a business person, researcher, engineer or student, a search through patent documents can help you:. Your competitors may be using the information in patent documents to their advantage.

Can you afford to ignore it? A good early step is to undertake a preliminary search of existing patents. This will determine if your invention, or a similar one, has been patented already. If so, there is no need to proceed further. The database is interactive and easy to use. It allows you to do simple yet powerful searches on Canadian patent information from the comfort of your home or office, free of charge. When you access the Canadian Patents Database online, you can do a preliminary search of patent information dating back to You can do a search using key words, the name of the inventor, owner or applicant, the international patent classification and more.

Once you have searched online, you may also wish to take advantage of more functionality and better data coverage by visiting CIPO's Client Service Centre in person. It supplies, free of charge, information on a variety of subjects such as: procedures for filing patent applications and for registering trademarks, copyright, industrial des and integrated circuit topographies. Intellectual property information officers provide many services.

They can help you with information related to:. Our information officers can also guide you in your IP searches through various IP databases, including:. As a first-time visitor, you may feel overwhelmed by the idea of searching through so many patents. IP information officers are available to help you with your search; however, they cannot do the search for you. Registered patent agents are specialists who must pass a rigorous examination in patent law and practice before being allowed to represent inventors before CIPO. Preparing and prosecuting following through on a patent application is a complex job.

Prosecution involves corresponding with CIPO, taking actions set out in the Patent Act and Rules within strict timelines, making any necessary changes to the application and fixing the legal scope of the patent protection. All this requires a broad knowledge of patent law and Patent Office practice—knowledge you can expect from a registered patent agent. A trained patent agent will make sure your application is properly drafted so your invention is adequately protected. Hiring such an agent is not mandatory but we highly recommend it.

Please note that if you have transferred some or all of your rights to the invention, a patent agent must be appointed by law. Once you have appointed a patent agent, CIPO will correspond with no one else about the prosecution of your application, including you. You may, however, change patent agents at any time or choose not to have one anymore. Patent agents' fees are not regulated by CIPO; you and your agent should agree on fees before work on your application begins.

CIPO provides you with a list of registered patent agents but cannot recommend any particular one to you. Please be aware that there are individuals who provide advice regarding patent applications and prosecution of patent applications before CIPO who are not registered agents with CIPO.

These individuals have not passed the patent agent licensing exam, which is the qualifying test for patent agents in Canada.

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