Even if your small business doesn’t own a lot of real estate or machine tools, the intellectual property you hold might be more valuable. Protecting and expanding this property is good for you, your employees, and your customers, not to mention the economy at large.
Unfortunately, even a pretty straightforward legal case to protect your ideas can last years and cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees. As a result, the Canadian government has a number of programs to help small businesses defend their rights to intellectual property.
Types of Intellectual Property
Broadly speaking, intellectual property is any information your company owns. This type of property falls into three categories:
- Copyrights: These are the rights to your logo; written materials; company and product names; and other designs and materials your company has the exclusive right to distribute, display, or profit from. If your company has a YouTube channel, all your videos are probably protected by copyright law, as are your promotional materials.
- Patents: Patents are original inventions for useful, novel objects and processes. For example, if your company invented or bought the patent for a new kind of pencil, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office protects your exclusive right to develop and sell that design for as long as the patent lasts.
- Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are any information that helps your business and that you try to keep confidential. You don’t have to register trade secrets, but you may have to defend them in court to stop their release.
Government Funding to Protect Your Intellectual Property
CIPO doesn’t directly pay to protect your intellectual property, but it has a lot of helpful advice about where you can turn for enforcement if your IP is being infringed. One resource CIPO offers is a frequently updated database of patent and trademark agents who can act on your behalf if someone is using your innovation without permission. If the infringement takes place in Canada, you may appeal to one of CIPO’s agents to investigate and give you advice. You can also follow the traditional route of hiring a lawyer and going to court.
Canadian Government Loan Programs
The federal government doesn’t just defend citizens’ rights abroad. Various government and government-subsidized programs can help you get or develop new intellectual property. Many of these programs take the form of privately issued and government-backed loans, such as:
- BDC Xpansion Loans: These loans encourage private Canadian companies to develop new technologies for export. The loans are very flexible, and you can use the money to develop new technology; market new products; pay registration fees for patent and trademark protection; and even hire and train new engineers, technicians, and marketers to develop your innovation. This program also lets you re-borrow any amount of the loan you’ve already repaid, making for a good buffer during setbacks.
- Going Global Innovation Program: The Going Global program provides grants of up to $75,000 for basic research into new technologies, R & D, hiring, and marketing new products, especially for export. The funds can go to any Canadian business, educational centre, or private individual who plans to develop new intellectual property.
If your business needs intellectual property to thrive, the government has programs to help you. Research the options available, including those of your provincial government, to get the most out of your IP rights.