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General Overview of Intellectual Property

1. Patents

A patent is an official document issued by the Canadian Government giving the owner the right to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell or selling his or her invention in Canada for the life of the patent. The life of a Canadian patent is typically twenty (20) years from the day that the application for the patent was filed. Canada grants this exclusionary property right to encourage the public to fully disclose technical advances and improvements so that, through this disclosure, further technical innovation can be undertaken. While developing new technological advances and obtaining Canadian patent rights can be costly, the expense is offset by the exclusionary rights granted by a patent that give the patent owner the opportunity to profit from the valuable and innovative work.

2. Trademarks

Careful attention should be paid to the selection and design of trademarks. Unlike a patent that has a twenty year enforcement period measured from the filing date of the patent, trademarks (for goods) and service marks (for services) may remain in force indefinitely. The value of the mark thus increases each year and if the business that owns the mark is ever sold, a significant proportion of the sales price can be attributed to the mark.

3. Copyright

There are two steps one should take to protect an original work of authorship. The International Copyright Notice should be affixed to the work as soon as it is completed, and an application for a Certificate of Registration from the United States Copyright Office should be filed no later than ninety days after the date of the first publication of the work. Copyright protection is available for original works of authorship; it is not available for names, titles or slogans nor is copyright protection available for useful devices.

4. Trade Secrets

Unlike Patents, Trademarks/Service Marks or Copyright, a Trade Secret is a type of Intellectual Property for which the owner does not seek registration or a grant from the Canadian Government. A Trade Secret typically consists of a formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in the trade secret's owner business and which gives the trade secret owner an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use the trade secret. A Trade Secret may be a formula for a chemical compound, a process of manufacturing, treating or preserving materials, a pattern for a machine or other device or a list of customers. As the name of this Intellectual Property suggests, trade secrets must be kept secret. Matters which are generally known or commonly known to the trade in which the trade secret owner is engaged cannot be protected as a trade secret. If a trade secret has in fact been maintained as secret, a trade secret owner may be able to recover damages for another's inappropriate possession and use of the trade secret.