A ‘patent’ or ‘letters patent’ is quite simply a document issued by the government to an inventor granting him the right to exclusive possession and enjoyment of his invention or discovery.

Who may apply?

Any inventor or assignee for an invention may apply for a patent. Canada has a first-to-file system which means that the first inventor to file an application for the same invention is entitled to patent protection.

What may be protected?

Patent protection is generally available for an invention. That is, any new and useful art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement therein.

The words ‘art’ and ‘process’ are used interchangeably and refer to a connected series of steps or operations for accomplishing a physical result e.g. A+B+C=D. Machines include automobiles, televisions, telephones, VCRs, and printers. A manufacture would be a hammer, book or knife. Compositions of matter include gasoline, glue, paper, soap and plastics.

Term of protection

The term of patent protection in Canada, and most other countries, is twenty (20) years from the date of filing the application.

Where should I file?

Normally, Canadian clients file their first patent application in Canada or the United States. You must have a patent in every country where you want protection, but a decision for other countries can be delayed up to a year after the first filing. Factors that influence this decision include where potential markets or competitors are located, and the costs involved in obtaining a patent. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is a useful tool whereby a single International application can be initially filed to protect your rights to file applications in 144 countries.

What should I do first?

The advice of a patent professional should be sought with respect to the patentability of your invention. It is necessary to prepare a written description with drawings or photographs, and provide a model or sample if possible.

The value of searches

A search of the Canadian and United States Patent Office records to see if the invention is new is normally carried out before a patent application is filed.

Maintaining secrecy

It is important to file your first application as quickly as possible, and to keep your invention secret until this application is filed. Although a few countries provide a period of grace so that an application can be filed after disclosure to the public, this is not the norm worldwide.

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