Patents: The Basics


In a new series, we review the basics of Canadian trade-mark, copyright and patent law.

  • Canadian Patents: Patents protect inventions, such as a process, machine, manufactured article, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention. Patents provide the patent owner with the right to exclude others from making, selling, or using the patented invention for a period of 20 years from the date of filing. In exchange, the patent owner must fully disclose the invention. To be patentable, the invention must be new (in other words, be the first in the world); it must be useful (functional and operative); and it must be non-obvious (in other words, it shows “inventive ingenuity” and is not obvious to someone skilled in that area).  Abstract ideas, a mathematical formula or algorithm, or scientific principles are not patentable.
  • Best Practices:
    • Non-Dislosure: Any public disclosure of the invention prior to filing can result in loss of patentability. Canada has a 12 month grace period, permitting the filing of a Canadian patent application within one year of disclosure, but this grace period is not available in most countries.
    • Patent Searching:  A patentability search is recommended before the patent application is prepared. The search and opinion will confirm the patentability of the invention, and can provide insight to a patent agent on how to craft the patent application.
    • Provisional Patent: In the US, inventors can file what is known as a “provisional patent application”, and while there is no exact equivalent in Canada, it is possible in Canada to file a simplified form of a patent application, which is often used as a way to quickly secure a filing date. Some inventors fall into the trap of thinking “I’ve got a provisional patent” since an application of this type has been filed. But a provisional will never be examined and will never issue as a patent. Think of this as an incomplete application, since that’s what it is. The provisional or incomplete application must be followed up with a complete application within 12 months in the US, and within 15 months in Canada, after which the patent rights will be lost.  
    • Use a registered patent agent: Even the Canadian Intellectual Property Office warns of unauthorized and incompetent advisors who are not qualified to prosecute patent applications before the patent office. 
  • Patents Outside Canada:  Patent rights are granted country-by-country, so an issued patent in Canada is not enforceable in the United States, for example, without obtaining patent rights in that country.  A patent application must be filed in each country. Canadian inventors can apply for foreign patents from within Canada through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which provides a standardized international filing system. Through the PCT, a Canadian company can access the application process for 142 PCT member countries.
  • Design Patent: See Industrial Design.

For more information and assistance with your patent and intellectual property needs, visit Field’s Intellectual Property & Technology Group. 

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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