Earlier this year, the Government of Canada announced a new strategy to help Canadians innovate, reach commercial success and create more jobs.
It isn’t business training or more investment capital for entrepreneurs, though. Instead, the strategy is all about intellectual property (IP).
Named the Intellectual Property Strategy, the initiative plans to invest more than $85 million to make sure that “Canadian businesses, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators have access to the best possible IP resources through IP awareness, education and advice; strategic IP tools for growth; and IP legislation.”
Why? Because IP is important. Really important.
Companies that register and protect their IP enjoy some key benefits over companies that don’t:
- Stake their claim: Patents are commonly awarded to the first person or company to apply with their idea, for example, so it’s a good way to get ahead of competitors.
- Protect against infringement: If someone else copies your idea, you have proof that it belongs to you and can pursue legal action.
- Attract more funding: Proof that you own your innovation, idea or creation can help attract investors and even secure loans in some cases.
- Build their reputation: Your brand stands as a testament to the quality of the products and services you offer, and can build goodwill with your customers.
- Create opportunities for licensing: Licensing is a fast way to generate cash flow, and can help you enter new markets across the world.
So how do you protect your innovations and ideas?
The first step: Understanding the basics of IP
Your IP includes hardware and physical products along with your intangible assets, like algorithms, business or brand names, software, secret recipes, scientific formulas, specific shapes and designs, processes and more.
Generally, there are four main ways you can register your IP:
Used for: New inventions (a product, composition, machine or process) or a useful improvement to an existing invention
Learn more about patents
Used for: The visual appearance of a product, including shape, configuration, pattern, ornaments or any combination of the above. (Note: Industrial design does not cover what a product is made of or how it works.)
Learn more about industrial designs
Used for: A combination of words, sounds or designs that uniquely identify your products or services from others in the marketplace.
Learn more about trademarks
Used for: Original artistic, dramatic, musical or literary work, performances, recordings and communication signals.
Learn more about copyright
Protection also works differently abroad. If you’re planning to market and sell your products and services in other countries, remember you’ll need to register or file in each one separately.
The next step: plan your IP strategy
The best place to start? First, take stock of what IP you own, from your domain name and your logo to your software and final packaging.
Next, check out other IP in your industry. It’s a great way to keep tabs on upcoming trends and check that you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s ideas.
Then, build a plan for how you want to manage your IP. Figure out what you want to protect, and when you want to protect it.
Finally, register your IP. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office is a great place to start for filing in Canada, and resources like the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization can help with registration abroad.
Most importantly, no matter where you are in the process, don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s a complex topic! Innovation Guelph can connect you with mentors and experts who can guide you through your options and next steps.
Looking for more information? Stay tuned for our follow up piece on Intellectual Property in the Gig Economy