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A Guide to Patents


Part - 1




Patents fuel progress
Where would we be without patents? At a more primitive stage of industrial development, without a doubt. Technological progress and economic strength in modern industrialized nations — and Canada is no exception — depend greatly on the patent system both at home and abroad.

Patents offer inventors monopolies on their creations for specific periods, and thus provide incentives for research and development. Without the possibility of patent protection, many people might not take the risks or invest the time and money involved in devising and perfecting new products. Our society would be deprived of thousands of innovations, from the proverbial better mousetrap to new medicines, communications systems, energy sources, and so on. And without new products the economy would quickly stagnate.

But patents do more than keep creative wheels spinning. They are also a means of technological exchange. Each patent document describes a new aspect of a technology in clear and specific terms and is available for anyone to read. They are made public specifically to promote the sharing of knowledge. As such, they are vital resources for businesses, researchers, inventors, academics and others who need to keep up with developments in their fields.


Purpose of this guide
This guide explores the two main ways patents may be important to you the inventor, business person or researcher — as a source of protection and of information. The guide is designed to be your introduction to patents and patenting procedures, and to outline how you can use the resources of the Patent Office to further your business or research venture.

It is not, however, a comprehensive text on patent laws (these are available in many libraries). Nor is it a substitute for the professional advice you may need from a registered patent agent to assist you in protecting your invention.

For more detailed information on patenting procedures, consult the Patent Act, Patent Rules and Manual of Patent Office Practice (MOPOP).

The glossary gives a definition of the terms used in this Guide.


The Patent Office
The federal agency responsible for granting patents in Canada is the Patent Office, directed by the Commissioner of Patents.

The role of the Patent Office in granting patents is to acquire and disseminate technological information and to encourage the creation, adoption and exploitation of inventions.

The Patent Office is part of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), an agency of Industry Canada. CIPO is responsible not only for patents, but for all intellectual property rights including trade-marks, copyrights, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies.

The main functions of the Patent Office are to:

  • receive and examine applications for patents and grant patents to qualifying applicants;
  • record assignments of patents;
  • maintain search files of Canadian and foreign patent documents and a search room for public use in researching patent documents and records; and
  • publish and disseminate patent information.

    The Patent Office has approximately 500 employees, about 300 of whom are examiners with extensive technical and legal training. These specialists in various fields of invention examine some 30 000 requests for examination for patent applications which are received each year.

The archives of the Patent Office constitute the largest collection of technological information in Canada. A detailed classification system helps people retrieve this information.


Patent Protection


What is a patent?
Through a patent, the government gives you, the inventor, the right to exclude others from making, using or selling your invention from the day the patent is granted to a maximum of 20 years after the day on which you filed your patent application. You can use your patent to make a profit by selling it, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding.

In exchange, you are expected to provide a full description of the invention so that all Canadians can benefit from this advance in technology and knowledge. The Patent Office will lay open your application to public inspection 18 months from the earlier of: a) your filing date in Canada; or b) your filing date abroad under an international treaty; this date is known as the "convention priority date" (see Applying for a patent outside Canada).

People may then read about, though not make, use or sell, your invention without your permission. Only after your patent has expired, or lapsed for non-payment of maintenance fee, may anyone freely make, use or sell your invention. The idea is to promote the sharing of technological information while giving you a monopoly on your creation.

To sum up, a patent is: 1) a document protecting the rights of the inventor; 2) a repository of useful technical information for the public.

The rights conferred by a Canadian patent extend throughout Canada, but not to foreign countries. You must apply for patent rights in other countries separately. Conversely, foreign patents do not protect an invention in Canada.

People occasionally confuse patents with trade-marks, copyrights, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies. Like patents, these are rights granted for intellectual creativity and are forms of intellectual property.


  • patents cover new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter), or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention;
  • a trade-mark is a word, symbol or design (or any combination of these features), used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace;
  • copyrights provide protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs), and three other subject-matter known as: performance, sound recording and communication signal;
  • industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these features), applied to a finished article of manufacture;
  • integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional configuration of the electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.


What can you patent?
Suppose you are the proud inventor of an electric door lock. How do you know if you can obtain a patent for it? There are three basic criteria for patentability.

First, the invention must be new (first in the world). Second, it must be useful (functional and operative). Finally, it must show inventive ingenuity and not be obvious to someone skilled in that area.

The invention can be a product (a door lock), a composition (a chemical composition used in lubricants for door locks), an apparatus (a machine for making door locks), a process (a method for making door locks), or an improvement on any of these. Ninety percent of patents are, in fact, for improvements to existing patented inventions.

A patent is granted only for the physical embodiment of an idea (e.g. the description of a plausible door lock) or for a process that produces something saleable or tangible. You cannot patent a scientific principle, an abstract theorem, an idea, a method of doing business, a computer program per se, or a medical treatment.

What can you patent?


new kind of door lock


E = MC2


apparatus for building door locks


Romeo and Juliet


process for lubricating door locks


a business plan


method of making door locks


improvements on any of these



You can receive the rest of the Guide to Patents in Canada
free of charge by completing the form below.

Here is what you will receive:

Part 2

  • Patent evaluation - Novelty, Utility, Ingenuity
  • Registered patent agents
  • When to apply for a patent
  • Next steps: Patent prosecution

Part 3

  • Summary of steps to obtain a patent in Canada
  • Applying for a patent outside of Canada
  • Convention priority
  • The Patent Cooperation Treaty
  • What does "protection" mean?
  • Patent Fees

Part 4

  • Marketing and licensing your Patent
  • Abuse of patent rights
  • Corresponding with the Patent Office
  • Wealth of technical know-how
  • Your research and development partner
  • Summary of benefits of a patent search

Part 5

  • Format of the Patent Application
  • Abstract
  • Specification
  • Claims
  • Drawings

Part 6

  • Filing Patent Application
  • Instructions
  • Glossary


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