Your brand, know-how and trade secrets are the core of your business. They are what sets you apart from the competition. Together, they constitute your business’s intellectual property.
Intellectual property is intangible, but it is valuable nonetheless. As a rule, any idea, brand, logo or process that you invent is yours and yours alone from that moment on, and no one else can commercialize it and profit from it.
The problem arises in the ability to prove precisely what you imagined, when you made it public and what exactly you use it for. That is where legal concepts such as trademarks, copyrights, patents and industrial designs come into play. In Canada, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is responsible for the registration of intellectual property and the application of the various laws that govern it.
A trademark is a unique combination of letters, words, sounds or designs that sets apart your business’s goods or services from those of your competitors. It is easily recognizable and unique. It distinctly represents your brand. For example, in Canada, everyone is familiar with the bold characters and cursive handwriting used for Canadian Club whisky.
You own your trademark as soon as you create it, but by registering it with CIPO, you get added protection under the law, gain exclusive rights to use it for a 15-year renewable term, and you can use your certificate of registration as proof of ownership in court.
Copyrights deal with literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. As the owner of the copyright to a work, you have the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform it. No one else may copy that work and profit from it without your permission.
Here again, registration is not mandatory. An original work is automatically protected by the legal concept of copyright the moment you create it. However, registration with CIPO has the same legal and practical advantages as with trademarks.
Patents are a form of legal protection granted to inventors who develop a new technology or that make significant improvements to existing ones. Registration of a patent is a more complex process than for trademarks or copyrights since you must go into great technical detail to explain clearly what the innovation is exactly.
For an invention to receive a patent, it must be new, useful and inventive. If you are looking to patent an invention, be very careful about sharing any information concerning it; any public circulation of the idea may invalidate the possibility of obtaining a patent.
An industrial design is that special touch that gives your products a distinctive look. It is some specific design elements that is easily recognizable and immediately associated with a particular brand, such as the well-known shape of a Coca-Cola bottle.
As with other elements of intellectual property, industrial designs can be registered with CIPO for added legal protection.