The intellectual property (IP)

A captivating world

IP in short

The creations of the mind

Intellectual property (IP) represents the creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, designs, etc., used in business. Patents, industrial designs, trademarks, copyrights, integrated circuit topographies and plant breeders are referred to as "IP rights". These rights are governed by respective Laws making them assignable properties (i.e., which may be assigned or transferred) that may have separate values and be parts of the assets of a company alike the other tangible and intangible assets owned by it.

Each IP right plays a different role. Patents especially provide for the protection of the utilitarian or functional aspect of an invention, whereas industrial designs (also called models) provide for the protection of visual features (configuration, pattern or ornamental elements) of a finished article. Trademarks, for their part, provide for the protection of words, symbols, designs, etc. used to distinguish goods or services offered by an individual or a company from those of others on the market, whereas copyrights provide for the protection of the creative works of an individual or a company. There are also other IP rights, less common, namely integrated circuit topographies, which provide for the protection of new tridimensional circuit configurations used in electronic products, as well as plant breeders which provide for the protection of new breeds of plant species.

The creation of a product may lead to different forms of IP. For example, a new functionality integrated to the product could be protected by a patent. An original visual configuration of the same product could be protected by an industrial design, whereas the distinctive name assigned to it could be protected by a trademark. The instruction manual could be protected by copyright. The protection of a form of IP does not exclude the protection of another form of IP for the same product.

The CIPO website (Canadian intellectual property Office) is a great source of materials to learn more about intellectual property in general. Other sources of IP information are provided on our page of links.

For a good start

Some precautions are called for...

Who would not be eager to disclose his/her invention to the public or at least to certain persons after having devoted many hours to the design, development and creation of the invention, and possibly having invested an important amount of money during the inventive process. Many reasons may urge such a haste, such as that of getting the invention on the market as fast as possible to collect profits or at least recover the initial investment, that of interesting potential commercial investors or partners, that of getting scientific or technical recognition from peers, that of having to consult an external technical expert to develop a functionnal version of the invention, etc.

However, acting so could seriously threaten the obtaining of patents for the invention and deprive the inventor from any exclusivity that could have provided him/her an advantageous position with respect to the competition. Because one of the basic requirement for obtaining patents is the novelty of the invention, that is, the invention must not have been disclosed.

Of course, it is possible to request the signature of confidentiality agreements. However, such agreements are oftentimes inconvenient and do not provide an absolute garantee that the patentable character of the invention will be preserved, in addition to placing the burden of showing that the agreement has been breached upon the one who suffers the damages.

Different strategies may be considered to protect an invention, depending on the situation, the available budget, and possible legislative develpments regarding intellectual property matters.

Certain steps can be carried out to reduce the risk that getting a potentially original product on the market infringes some other's rights.

Issued patents or published patent applications constitute a great source of technical knowledge that can be advantageously explored for developping a new invention or avoiding reinventing an existing product.

Even when it has been decided that an invention does not deserve patent protection, certain measures can be taken to prevent a third party from patenting it and eventually keeping you from pursuing your activities.

Before diving into the fabulous and rewarding world of the intellectual property, do not hesitate to consult the other sections of our website and to contact us by telephone, e-mail, fax or in person if you would like to have more information in respect with your specific situation. Consultation fees should be expected.