When you invent a process or a product that you feel is worthwhile, you'll want to get a patent for it. Otherwise, your rights to the invention are not protected. Someone else could invent the same thing and get a patent on it, effectively preventing you from using your invention. And even if that doesn't happen, as soon as you start producing and/or selling your invention, the secret will be out, and anyone who wants to will be able to imitate your idea.
If you get a patent for your invention, though, you will have the exclusive right to make, use or sell your invention in Canada. (Note, however, that successfully acquiring a Canadian patent does not protect your rights in other countries. As patent law is national, you need to get a patent in each country where you want your rights to be protected.)
How to Patent Something in Canada
There are basically four steps to getting a patent in Canada:
- Do a patent search.
- Complete a patent application.
- Submit your patent application.
- Request examination of your patent request.
Looks simple, doesn't it? But unfortunately, getting a patent is one of those "there's plenty a slip between the cup and the lip" situations that are quite a bit more complicated than it looks at first glance. So let's look at how to patent your idea in more detail.
Step 1: Do a Patent Search
You can't patent something that's already been patented, so the first step to getting a patent is to do a patent search. Go to the Canadian Patents Database to do a preliminary patent search.
As the Database will let you access over 75 years of patent descriptions and images, this may be as far as your patent search has to go. Many potential patent applications end here when people find that their invention is already patented.
You may, however, do a more extensive patent search by visiting CIPO's Client Service Centre, located at Place du Portage I, Gatineau, Quebec, in person (or hire a patent agent or searching firm to do this for you).
Step 2: Complete a Patent Application
There are two main parts to a patent application; the abstract and the specification.The abstract is a brief summary of the specification.
The specification is made up of a clear and complete description of the invention and its usefulness, and claims that define the boundaries of patent protection. A patent application also often includes drawings.
The challenge, explains the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, "is to draft the claims so your invention is defined broadly enough to provide maximum protection while at the same time being specific enough to identify your invention by making sure it is different from all previous inventions."
They provide a very useful Tutorial on Writing a Patent Application which explains how to write each section of the patent application.
You will also want to read the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's A Guide to Patents.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office highly recommends engaging the services of a registered patent agent to complete and follow through on your patent application. In their words, preparing and following through on a patent is a complex job that requires a broad knowledge of patent law and Patent Office practice. They have a list of registered patent agents on their website.
If you do decide to hire a patent agent, make sure you do engage a registered one, as only registered patent agents are authorized to represent applicants in the presentation and prosecution of applications for patents before the Patent Office.
Step 3: Submit your Patent Application
Your complete patent application must be accompanied by a Formal Petition asking the Commissioner of Patents to grant you a patent.
You can either:
1) Submit your complete patent application in writing with the appropriate fee to:
The Commissioner of Patents
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office
Place du Portage Phase I
50 Victoria Street Gatineau, Quebec
2) Create an electronic application for a patent. To do this you must create an account with Industry Canada. You can then create and submit a new patent application online. You can attach digital documents such as technical drawings and other documents to your application.
Once filed, your application is assigned a number and filing date, and you will be informed about these. Note that this is no guarantee of a patent; it simply means your application is pending.
It also doesn't mean that your patent application is automatically examined; to have your patent request considered you need to:
Step 4: Request Examination of Your Patent Application
You must request examination of your patent application within five years of the Canadian filing date and pay the appropriate fee.
If you don't request an examination of your patent application, it will be considered to be abandoned.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office advises that it may take up to two years for a patent to be examined because of the large number of requests they receive.
It is possible to ask for advanced examination of your patent application. (An additional fee is required.) To do this, you must already have made a request for examination and your patent application must have already been open to the public for perusal (which happens automatically 18 months after the filing date or priority date). Anyone can raise questions or objections about your patent application until the patent is officially examined.
What Happens to My Patent Application Then?
A patent examiner will study your claims and either approve your patent application or object to some or all of your claims. You will have a chance to respond to the objections if this is the case, and if you choose to respond, your patent application will be reconsidered. This process may go on several times before your patent application is accepted or denied.
For a more detailed explanation of each step of how to get a patent in Canada, refer to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's A Guide to Patents. For information on Copyrights see Copyright in Canada & Copyright Protection. For information on Trademarks see How to Select a Good Trademark and Trademark Registration in Canada.