Every great product or service started as a great idea. Sadly, ideas are quite easy to lose if you share them with people (even the ones you think you can trust) without having a proper protection system in place.
History recorded lots of intellectual property theft cases and we’re sure many were forgotten, but it goes to show just how fast your great idea can be taken away and used to start a competing business.
Luckily, modern times are more appropriate for thinkers and visionaries who have a wide array of options when it comes to protecting their intellectual property. Moreover, one can choose to protect their ideas locally (in the registering country) or at an international level. This way, everyone can participate in making the world a better place!
So, if you currently live in Canada and want to protect a business idea, here are the top three most common options from which to choose.
Patents are specialized tools designed to protect inventors and their ideas. However, in order to be successful when applying for a patent, you need a novel invention that can’t be obvious to regular people. Moreover, in order to benefit from patent protection, you need to put your idea and a rudimentary design on paper (the documentation needs to be submitted with the patent application).
Canadian patents are reviewed and regulated by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and the legal requirements and terms are a bit different compared to US patents. Therefore, if this is the first time you’re going through this process in Canada, it’s best to study the rules and regulations. Or better yet, consult with a patent lawyer who can help speed up your application and smooth out the process.
In summary, once a patent is granted, it provides the owner with exclusivity rights on making, using, or selling their invention for a max of 20 years.
It’s important to understand that copyright protection is not about the content of the idea but its expression. For instance, anyone can make a video game that follows the same rules and plot of a computer game like Super Mario, but copyright forbids them from creating the exact same game, using the exact name and graphic design. Therefore, you should use copyright to protect the expression of your business (like logo, design format, unique elements) but you can’t use it to protect what your business does from being replicated in one format or another.
#3: Confidential Information
Canadian laws allow businesses and employers, in general, to ask their collaborators to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (or NDA) in order to protect confidential information. Therefore, the NDA is another way to protect IP of commercial value that is not part of the public domain.
An organization can protect specific business processes, methods of doing things, detailed data, and other such information. However, in a legal battle, you also have to prove this type of information has commercial value, and its disclosure led to damages for the company.
Canadian IP laws offer other forms of protection, which is why the country is favored by many businesses and individuals who want to boost research and development in their sector. Still, before you can find the right way to protect your idea and business, it’s important to make sure you understand the legal climate. Or at least, find a business partner/collaborator who does.