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Intellectual Property Definitions and Protection of IP

Intellectual Capital

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office is a key source for information on intellectual property and provides a general toolkit for use in protecting IP through various mechanisms: patents, trade-marks, copyrights, and industrial designs.

CIPO uses the broad term, “intellectual capital” to identify all of the “knowledge assets” of an organization.

“Intellectual capital” is the sum of an organization’s ideas, inventions, technologies, brands, general knowledge, software, designs, processes, etc. (i.e. knowledge that can be converted into profit).

Intellectual capital is a broad term used to identify all knowledge assets of an organization such as ideas, inventions, technologies, brands, general knowledge, software, designs, or processes. In addition to the knowledge assets mentioned above, the intellectual capital may also include the experience and skills of the employees and their ability to acquire more knowledge. In general, the intellectual capital is formed of that non-common knowledge that might have value for a competitor. In this knowledge-based economy, the strategic use of intellectual capital has become one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. More and more SMEs realize that they may extract more value, and in an easier way, by strategically using their intellectual capital instead of competing on price alone.

Intellectual Property (IP)

The formal ownership of most of intellectual capital is done through IP. Intellectual property refers to the legal rights that result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields.

Protection of Intellectual Property (IP)

There are several types of intellectual property identified by CIPO.

A patent granted by the Patent Office of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) provides protection within Canada for up to 20 years from the date considered to be the filing date in Canada. A patent can be received for products, processes, machines, manufactures or compositions of matter that are new and useful as well as new and useful improvements thereof.

A patent enables its owner to stop others from making, using, selling or importing such a product or process. The patent owner could also use it to stop someone who subsequently, though independently, invents the claimed invention. In many cases, a patent is the only way its owner may ensure exclusivity in the marketplace, and hence a competitive edge.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can also use a patent to make a profit by selling it, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding. By licensing a patented invention, the patent owner allows a business or individual to manufacture and sell the invention, usually in exchange for royalties.

Trade-mark registration gives the owner exclusive rights to words and designs (or a combination of these) that distinguish his/her goods or services from those of others. The trade-mark can be registered through CIPO’s Trade-marks Office, obtaining protection within Canada for renewable 15-year periods.

A copyright – the right to copy – means that an owner is the only person who may copy the work or permit someone else to do so.

Generally, copyright in Canada lasts for the life of the author and 50 years following the author’s death. The kinds of works covered include: books, maps, lyrics, musical scores, sculptures, paintings, photographs, films, tapes, computer programs and databases.

The owner of a copyright has a number of rights, among which is the sole right to control first publication, production, reproduction and performance of a work or its translation. A SME may assign its copyright, license it or use it for funding.

An industrial design comprises the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these) applied to a manufactured article.

Electronic integrated circuit products are constructed from a complex series of layers of semi-conductors, metals, dielectrics (insulators) and other materials on a substrate. Integrated circuit topography refers to the three-dimensional configuration of the electronic circuits used in microchips and semiconductor chips. Registration offers exclusive rights for up to ten years on the original circuit design. Protection can extend to the layout design as well as to the finished product.

The Canadian Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides exclusive rights to new varieties of some plant species. To be protected, the varieties must be new (i.e. not previously sold), different from all other varieties, uniform (i.e. all plants in the variety must be the same), and stable (i.e. each generation must be the same as the rest).

CIPO also provides case studies for use by post-secondary institutions. Read more.