Under the Patent Act, a patent may be obtained by anyone who invents any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement to any of these things. Scientific theories, computer programs, plants or animals, discoveries of natural substances and natural biological processes cannot be patented.
Patents give inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing the patented invention for a limited time. In Canada, a patent protects an invention for 20 years starting from the date it was applied for by the inventor, in keeping with international standards.
By giving inventors this temporary monopoly over their inventions, patents encourage innovation. In exchange for these monopoly rights, inventors must disclose the details of their inventions to the public. This disclosure encourages the distribution of information and enables other inventors to remain abreast of the latest developments in their field and to develop improvements.
The Patent Act provides for a 20-year term of protection. Any new, useful and not obvious product, process, machine or composition of matter is potentially patentable.
For further information about patents and trade-marks, see
- the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade section on Trade Negotiations and Agreements;
- the websites of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, the Competition Bureau and the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.
- the websites of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity
Patent and trade-mark policy is the responsibility of the Patent Policy Directorate, which is part of the Marketplace Framework Policy Branch.
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