A guide to patents
This guide provides you with an introduction to patents and patenting procedures. It will help you understand what patents are and get started with your patent application.
This electronic version of the guide is the official version. If there are inconsistencies between this guide and the applicable legislation, the legislation must be followed. Read our terms and conditions.
On this page:
- Understanding patents—The basics
- Additional facts and issues to consider
- Preparing your patent application
- Abstract, specification and drawings
- Assisting your patent agent
- Filing your application
- Requesting examination
- Filing prior art and protests
- Advanced examination
- What to do if a claim is rejected
- Responding to the examiner's objections
- Helping your agent with amendments
- Reconsideration by the examiner
- How to appeal a rejected application
- Steps for obtaining a patent in Canada
- Additional considerations
- The protection that patents provide
- Fees for obtaining and maintaining a patent
- Corresponding with the Patent Office
- Electronic services
- Patent information—Beyond the basics
- Contact us
- Format of your application
- Small Entity Declaration
- Frequently asked questions
Understanding patents—The basics
Although this guide is not a complete text on patent laws or a substitute for professional advice from a registered patent agent, we have designed it as an introduction to patents and patenting procedures.
Patents fuel progress
Technologically sophisticated nations like Canada depend on the patent system for scientific advancement and economic strength.
By giving inventors monopolies on their creations for a specific time period, patents protect investments and allow inventors to profit financially from their creativity. This gives an attractive incentive for research and development, which ultimately benefits all Canadians. Without the possibility of patent protection, many people might not take the risk of investing the time or money needed to create or perfect new products. Without such activity, our economy would suffer.
Patents do more than make money and encourage creativity, however. They are also a way for people to share cutting-edge information. Each patent document describes a new aspect of a technology in clear and specific terms and is available for anyone to read. This makes them vital resources for businesses, researchers, academics and others who need to keep up with developments in their fields.
Through a patent, the government gives you, the inventor, the right to stop 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.
In exchange, you must provide a full description of the invention so that all Canadians can benefit from this advance in technology and knowledge. Patent applications are open to public inspection 18 months from the earlier of:
- the filing date in Canada, or
- the filing date in another country if you request it and satisfy certain conditions (this date is known as the "convention priority date"—see applying for a patent outside Canada).
People may then read about your invention, t hough they cannot make, use or sell it without your permission.
You can also use your patent to make a profit by selling it, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding.
The rights given by a Canadian patent extend throughout Canada, but not to other countries. You must apply for patent rights in other countries separately. Likewise, foreign patents do not protect an invention in Canada.
People occasionally confuse patents with trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies. Like patents, these others are rights granted for intellectual creativity and are forms of IP. However, there are important differences:
- Patents cover new and useful inventions (product, composition, machine, process) or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
- Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others.
- Copyright provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer's performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
- Industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament, or any combination of these features applied to a finished article.
- Integrated circuit topographies are the three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.
You may be tempted to protect your creation by simply keeping its information secret and selling the creation. The information is then known as a trade secret. (The recipe for Coca-Cola is an example of a trade secret.)
You will run into problems, however, if another person independently invents or discovers the subject matter of your trade secret. There is nothing to prevent that person from using it, applying for a patent or publishing the information.
The benefit of keeping a trade secret is that you do not have to make your innovation public as you do when you are granted a patent.
What you can patent
Suppose you are the proud inventor of an electric door lock. How do you know if you can get a patent for it? There are three basic criteria for patentability—novelty, utility and inventiveness:
- Novelty—To be granted a patent, the invention (door lock) must be the first of its kind in the world.
- Utility—A valid patent cannot be obtained for something that does not work or that has no useful function. The door lock must work.
- Inventiveness—To be patentable, your invention must be a new development or an improvement of an existing technology that would not have been obvious to someone working in your area of specialty. The door lock must add an improvement to the field of door locks.
To be granted a patent, your invention can be:
- a product (a door lock)
- a composition (a chemical composition used in lubricants for door locks)
- a machine (a machine for making door locks)
- a process (a method for making door locks)
- an improvement on any of these
In fact, 90 % of patents are for improvements to existing patented inventions!
Although you may obtain a patent for an improvement to an existing invention, keep in mind that the original patent may still be in force. If this is the case, manufacturing or marketing the product with your improvement may be an infringement of the original patent. This situation is often resolved by agreement between the patentees (the people who own the patents) to grant licences to each other. If you believe that this is a concern with your invention, you should discuss it with a patent agent.
A patent is granted only for the physical embodiment of an idea (for example, the description of a possible door lock) or for a process that produces something tangible or that can be sold. You cannot patent a scientific principle, an abstract theorem, an idea, some methods of doing business or a computer program.
When to apply for a patent
In Canada, patents are granted to the first inventor to file an application, so it is smart to file as soon as possible after you complete your invention in case someone else is on a similar track. Even if you can prove that you were the first to think of the invention, you lose the race if a competing inventor files before you do.
However, filing while you are still developing your invention may mean missing important features from the patent application. You may then have to reapply, adding to your expenses and risking possible patent disputes.
Again, it is very important not to advertise or disclose information about your invention before you are ready to file for a patent. Public disclosure of your invention before filing for a patent may make it impossible to obtain a valid patent and jeopardize the possibility of you receiving similar rights in other countries.
Additional facts and issues to consider
With so much information stored in each patent, it is not surprising that CIPO has the largest collection in Canada of current technological know-how from around the world.
CIPO's data holdings contain more than two million Canadian patent publications (grants and open to public inspection applications), most of which are searchable on our website or by doing an in-person search at the CIPO Client Service Centre.
Many of these patents are for "end-of-the-line" improvements on inventions that have been around for decades. But some are pioneering inventions that have opened up whole new fields in technology. Electronics, for example, started with a patent on a vacuum tube.
The information in these patents not only covers every conceivable field, but is also possibly the most up-to-date information available. This is because patent applications are generally made public 18 months after filing.
Use our resources to enrich your innovations
One of CIPO's goals is to make patent information available to Canadian industries, universities and research centres to help them keep abreast of innovations. The information can be especially useful to small and medium-sized businesses because it enables them to conduct their own research easily and inexpensively.
Not taking advantage of CIPO resources could cost you time and money, especially if you end up reinventing the wheel. A significant amount of all research and development in Canada does just that by duplicating patented technology. A search of the patent literature may prevent this kind of wasted effort.
Learning about the existing solutions to certain technical problems can also give you ideas for better inventions. In almost any field, some work has already been done somewhere. Perhaps the solution to the problem exists in a foreign patent that you can use freely here in Canada.
Patent documents can also reveal trends and sources of new products, show what the competition is doing at home and abroad, and help you find new suppliers, markets or know-how that you can use under licence.
The preliminary patent search
If you are a business person, researcher, engineer or student, a search through patent documents can help you:
- identify trends and developments in a specific field of technology
- discover new product lines, which you can license from the patentee or use without needing a licence
- find information that prevents duplication of research
- identify unproductive avenues of enquiry by reading about the current state of the art
- keep track of the work of a particular individual or company by seeing what patents they have been granted or have applied for
- find a solution to a technical problem
- gain new ideas for research in a particular field
Your competitors may be using the information in patent documents to their advantage.
Can you afford to ignore it?
A good early step is to undertake a preliminary search of existing patents. This will determine if your invention, or a similar one, has been patented already. If so, there is no need to proceed further.
You can do a preliminary search by accessing the Canadian Patents Database on the CIPO website. The database is interactive and easy to use. It allows you to do simple yet powerful searches on Canadian patent information from the comfort of your home or office, free of charge.
You can do a more sophisticated search in person at CIPO's Client Service Centre. For additional information about services available at the Client Service Centre, please see the section Search at CIPO, below.
Search the Canadian Patents Database online
When you access the Canadian Patents Database online, you can do a preliminary search of patent information dating back to 1869. You can do a search using key words, the name of the inventor, owner or applicant, the international patent classification and more.
Search at CIPO
Once you have searched online, you may also wish to take advantage of more functionality and better data coverage by visiting CIPO's Client Service Centre in person.
The CIPO Client Service Centre, located in Place du Portage I, Gatineau, Quebec, is the central point of contact for clients who wish to communicate with CIPO. It supplies, free of charge, information on a variety of subjects such as: procedures for filing patent applications and for registering trademarks, copyright, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies.
Intellectual property information officers provide many services. They can help you with information related to:
- IP legislation and regulations
- procedures for filing
- electronic searching tools (IP databases)
- our full range of products and services
Our information officers can also guide you in your IP searches through various IP databases, including:
- Canadian Patents Database
- Canadian Trademarks Database
- Canadian Copyrights Database
- Canadian Industrial Designs Database
As a first-time visitor, you may feel overwhelmed by the idea of searching through so many patents. IP information officers are available to help you with your search; however, they cannot do the search for you.
Consider using a registered patent agent
Registered patent agents are specialists who must pass a rigorous examination in patent law and practice before being allowed to represent inventors before CIPO.
Preparing and prosecuting (following through on) a patent application is a complex job. Prosecution involves corresponding with CIPO, taking actions set out in the Patent Act and Rules within strict timelines, making any necessary changes to the application and fixing the legal scope of the patent protection. All this requires a broad knowledge of patent law and Patent Office practice—knowledge you can expect from a registered patent agent.
A trained patent agent will make sure your application is properly drafted so your invention is adequately protected. Hiring such an agent is not mandatory but we highly recommend it.
Please note that if you have transferred some or all of your rights to the invention, a patent agent must be appointed by law. Once you have appointed a patent agent, CIPO will correspond with no one else about the prosecution of your application, including you. You may, however, change patent agents at any time or choose not to have one anymore. Patent agents' fees are not regulated by CIPO; you and your agent should agree on fees before work on your application begins.
CIPO provides you with a list of registered patent agents but cannot recommend any particular one to you.
Use only registered patent agents
Please be aware that there are individuals who provide advice regarding patent applications and prosecution of patent applications before CIPO who are not registered agents with CIPO. These individuals have not passed the patent agent licensing exam, which is the qualifying test for patent agents in Canada. These individuals are not authorized to represent applicants before CIPO.
Preparing your patent application
Note: You may wish to view our tutorial on how to prepare a patent application.
Abstract, specification and drawings
A patent application consists of an abstract, a specification and, in most cases, drawings.
The abstract is a brief summary of the contents of the specification.
The specification is made up of:
- a clear and complete description of the invention and its usefulness; and,
- claims that define the boundaries of the protection that your patent will give you.
The description must be clear and accurate, and it should be as simple, direct and free from obscurity and ambiguity as possible. The description is addressed to people in the field to which the invention pertains and must be written so that those people would be able to put the invention to the same successful use as the inventor.
After the patent is issued, information you specify as protected by your claims cannot be used freely (for example, to make or sell your invention) by others until the patent expires. Information not protected by your claims can however be used right away by anyone.
The challenge is to draft the claims so your invention is defined broadly enough to provide maximum protection while at the same time being specific enough to identify your invention by making sure it is different from all previous inventions.
Inventions that can be illustrated by drawings must be illustrated in your application for a patent. The drawings must clearly show all parts of the invention. The role of the drawings is to clarify the principles of how a device is constructed rather than to provide all of the particular details of dimensions or relative proportions.
Assisting your patent agent
To help your agent in getting the strongest possible patent while avoiding unnecessary costs, you can prepare a statement covering the following points:
- Field of the invention
- A broad description of the invention
- Objectives of the invention (that is, its main practical advantages over existing practices or products)
- The preferred practice (that is, the most appropriate use) of your invention, with details of at least one practical application
- Features of the invention that are new and distinct from what has come before, whether these features are patented or not
- The scope of the invention—for example, the materials, compositions, conditions, etc. used to obtain good results
- The invention's limitations—for example, if good results can be obtained throughout the given range of the invention, or if there are exceptions
- The results of laboratory or commercial tests showing your patent's preferred practice (item 4, above) and the conditions under which poor or dangerous results could be expected
- Lists of relevant patents or technical articles you have already found in any literature search, including full details such as: name of the inventor, number of the patent, country and date of issue or name of the periodical and its date with a list of the similarities and differences of practices or products that are relevant to your invention
- Any disclosure you have made (for example, people you may have told about your invention)
- Your name, address and citizenship
- All countries in which you would like to file for a patent
Filing your application
Filing a patent application means preparing a formal application and asking the Commissioner of Patents to grant you a patent.
To receive an official filing date in Canada, you must submit no less than the following:
- A statement that a patent is sought
- Documentation describing an invention
- Your name
- Your address or your patent agent's name and address
- The filing fee, and a signed small entity declaration, if applicable
Note: If you do not send the information above, the Patent Office will not give you a filing date, will return the papers you have submitted, and will refund the filing fee, less $25.
A complete patent application includes the information required to obtain a filing date as well as the following:
- Formal petition for grant of a patent
- Abstract of the invention
- Claim or claims to the invention
- Any drawings mentioned in the description
- A biological sequence listing, if applicable, in electronic format
- Appointment of a patent agent, when required
Note: It is best to file a full description of your invention and a complete application from the start; however, this is not always possible. If necessary, any of the items listed above may be submitted, without charge, within the 15 months following the priority date (or the filing date, if there is no priority date).
If your application is still incomplete after 15 months, you will be notified by CIPO, and you will have to complete the application within a certain amount of time as well as pay a completion fee.
You should not submit models and specimens of your invention unless the Commissioner of Patents requests them.
Once CIPO accepts your application for filing, the application is assigned a number and filing date. You will be informed about these. This is no guarantee of a patent; it simply means your application is pending.
The application will be open to public inspection (that is, the public will have access to your application) 18 months after the filing date or priority date. If you wish, you may request to have your application published earlier.
Your application will not automatically be examined simply because you have filed it.
You must formally request examination and pay the examination fee. This request must be made within five years of the Canadian filing date; otherwise, your application will be considered abandoned.
There are several reasons why you might file an application and not automatically request examination. Perhaps you need time to assess the feasibility or marketability of your invention. If so, filing provides some protection for your invention, possibly making your competitors less likely to infringe on it (that is, make, use or sell it) for fear of having to pay retroactive compensation should your patent eventually be granted.
However, if you do not request examination within the five-year period and the reinstatement period has passed, anyone will be able to freely make, use or sell the products or processes described in your application.
Once you have requested examination, be patient! The large number of patent applications that CIPO receives means the examination process may take more than two years.
Filing prior art and protests
After your patent application is made available to the public, anyone may raise questions about the patentability of your invention or one of its claims by filing what we refer to as "prior art"—information that might cause the patent examiner to object to one or more of your claims. Prior art can be patents, patent applications that have been open to public inspection, and published material that has a bearing on the case.
Anyone may also file a protest against the granting of a patent. Such protests will be made available to the public.
You may have special reasons for wanting an early examination of your application. Perhaps you expect competition soon or you hope to establish a business once you have received protection for your invention. If your case is exceptional in this way, you may ask for advanced examination. An extra fee will apply.
Note: CIPO will not consider an advanced examination request unless the application has been laid open to public inspection and you have made a request for examination.
What to do if a claim is rejected
It is not uncommon for the patent examiner to object to a claim. The examiner may find previous patents or publications that show every feature of one or more claims in your application. Or, the examiner may feel some claims would be obvious to a person with ordinary skills in the field. The examiner's objection will be outlined in a report or letter called a "Patent Office action," which will list the objections, and set a date for you to reply. The action may object to your whole application or only some claims, or it may ask for other changes in your application.
Responding to the examiner's objections
Do not feel discouraged if the examiner objects to some of your claims. You may respond to the objections as long as you do so within the period that the examiner specifies in the action. You or your patent agent must send your response to the Commissioner of Patents.
Your response may ask the Commissioner to amend your application by changing or cancelling some claims, or adding new claims. You must refute or overcome each objection raised by the examiner.
Helping your agent with amendments
Your patent agent will carefully study the Patent Office action to help you decide whether to proceed, amend or abandon your application at this point. If you decide to continue, you may be able to help prepare an amendment letter to point out the new features and advantages of your invention as compared to others listed in the Patent Office action. Let your agent know quickly if you want to make changes to your invention, as she or he may recommend filing a new application.
Reconsideration by the examiner
Once the examiner receives your response, they will review it and prepare a second office action. This may be a "notice of allowance" informing you that your application is allowable or it may be a request for further amendments. If further amendments are necessary, the request for amendments may be in the form of a written office action or the examiner may contact you (if you have not hired a patent agent) or your agent by phone to discuss the amendments required. This exchange may be repeated until the examiner allows your application or states that the action is final (in other words, that you may not proceed).
How to appeal a rejected application
If the examiner makes a final objection to your application, you have the right to appeal to the Commissioner of Patents, requesting that the Commissioner review the examiner's objection.
The review is conducted by the Patent Appeal Board, a special committee of senior Patent Office officials. Before your patent application is rejected you may appear before this board if you wish. If the Commissioner objects to your appeal and refuses to grant a patent, you may take your case to the Federal Court of Canada.
Steps for obtaining a patent in Canada
- Determine if you need a patent agent. (Note: If you choose to hire an agent, they may assist you for the remaining steps.)
- Do a preliminary search (if there is an existing patent, consider ending the process now).
- Prepare a patent application.
- File your application.
- Request examination.
- Examiner does search for prior publications and studies your application.
- Examiner either approves or objects to the application.
- Respond to the examiner's objections and requirements.
- Examiner reconsiders and either approves or calls for further amendments.
Re-examination of a granted patent
After your patent is issued, any person, including the Commissioner of Patents, may ask that one or more claims of your patent be re-examined if new prior art is found related to the patented invention. This can happen at any time during the term of your patent. The Commissioner of Patents may appoint a re-examination board to issue a certificate cancelling, confirming or amending your patent claims. You may appeal decisions that cancel or amend your claims to the Federal Court of Canada; however, you cannot appeal the Commissioner's refusal to set up a re-examination board.
Reissue and disclaimer
If you own a patent that accidentally contains omissions or mistakes, you may either apply to have it reissued within four years of its issue to broaden or change its claims, or you may apply for a disclaimer to narrow the scope of some or all of its claims. You may take the latter step at any time after the patent is issued.
The protection that patents provide
Protection against infringement
Patent infringement happens if someone makes, uses or sells your patented item without your permission in a country that has granted you a patent.
If you believe your patent is infringed, you may sue for damages in an appropriate court. The defendant may argue that infringement did not occur or may attack the validity of your patent. The court will decide who is right based largely on the wording of the claims. If what the defendant is doing is not within the wording of any of the claims of your patent, or if the patent is declared to be invalid for any reason, there is no infringement.
Protection before grant
When you have a Canadian patent, you will be able to sue infringers for all damages that occurred after your patent was granted. Also after the grant, you may sue for "reasonable compensation" for infringements that occurred in Canada between the date your application was made available for public inspection (18 months after filing or priority) and the date your patent was granted.
Patent marking and "patent pending"
The Patent Act does not require that articles be marked "patented"; however, in Canada, marking an article as patented when it is not is illegal.
You may wish to mark your invention "Patent applied for" or "Patent pending" after you have filed your application. These phrases have no legal effect but may warn others that you will be able to enforce your exclusive right to make the invention once a patent is granted.
Fees for obtaining and maintaining a patent
You must pay fees at various times during the patent application process. You must pay a filing fee, an examination fee and a final fee. Also, each year you must pay a maintenance fee in order to keep your patent application or patent in good standing.
Special provisions for small entities
In 1985, the Government of Canada reduced certain fees by 50 % for small entities such as universities and small businesses to encourage them to use the patent system. To pay fees at the small entity rate, an applicant must:
- be eligible under the definition of small entity
- submit a small entity declaration
Definition of small entity
The Patent Rules defines a small entity as one that employs 50 or fewer employees or that is a university. This does not include:
- an entity that is controlled directly or indirectly by an entity, other than a university, that employs more than 50 employees
- an entity that has transferred or licensed or has an obligation, other than a contingent obligation, to transfer or license any right in the invention to an entity, other than a university, that employs more than 50 employees
Small entity declaration
If you wish to submit a small entity declaration, you should do so within a specific time period (in order to have its full benefit) and include a statement indicating that "the applicant believes that they are entitled to pay fees at the small entity level."
Although you may submit a declaration as part of your petition, you are encouraged to submit it as a separate document since the small entity declaration, unlike the petition, requires a signature.
Note: small entity status is determined at the time of filing the patent application. If a company employed 10 people at the time of filing and then grows to 200 people five years later, it still qualifies as a small entity.
Maintenance fees encourage you as an applicant and patent holder to re-evaluate the economic value of your application and patent on a yearly basis. Owners of patents who are benefiting from the patent system must pay these fees or their patent rights will expire before the maximum 20 years.
However, if you own patents or patent applications and are not benefitting from them, you may choose not to pay maintenance fees. This lets your patents lapse—or applications go beyond the periods of reinstatement—and allows others to freely use the technology described in those patents or patent applications.
If the maintenance fee for a patent application is not paid by its due date, it becomes abandoned. It can be reinstated within a one-year reinstatement period. If it is not reinstated within that period, it cannot be revived. To reinstate your patent application, you must make a request for reinstatement and pay the maintenance fee and the reinstatement fee.
If the maintenance fee for a patent is not paid by the due date, it lapses. If you let your patent lapse and then change your mind, you can revive it within 12 months. In such a case, you must provide the payment of the maintenance fee and a late payment fee.
Corresponding with the Patent Office
Business with the Patent Office is normally done in writing. Please address all paper correspondence to:
Commissioner of Patents
Canadian Intellectual Property Office
Place du Portage I
50 Victoria Street, Room C114
Gatineau QC K1A 0C9
Any correspondence that you address to the Commissioner of Patents and deliver:
- during business hours to CIPO headquarters in Gatineau will be considered received that day
- during business hours to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada headquarters or to one of its regional offices, designated by the Commissioner in the Canadian Patent Office Record (CPOR), will be given the date of receipt in that office Note de bas de page 1
- at any time by electronic means of transmission specified in the CPOR, including by facsimile, will be considered received on the day that it is transmitted if received before midnight, local time, at CIPO headquarters
- through the registered mail service of the Canada Post Corporation (CPC) will be considered received on the date stamped on the envelope by the CPC
If you are enquiring about the status of your pending application, give its serial number, your name, and the title of the invention. If you have hired a patent agent, you must conduct all correspondence through that agent. CIPO will correspond only with the agent you have engaged.
You can arrange a phone or in-person interview with a patent examiner. In-person interviews are by appointment only, as this gives the examiner time to review your application before speaking to you.
Note: If you have a patent agent, the examiner will talk only to that agent, although you may be present as well.
CIPO will respond to all general enquiries, but cannot:
- advise you whether to file an application
- tell you whether your invention meets patentability criteria prior to filing an application
- tell you whether or to whom a patent for any alleged invention has been granted
- advise you about possible infringement of a patent
- act in any way as an interpreter of patent law, or as a counsellor, other than in matters directly related to processing your application
Corresponding by phone with an examiner
An examiner may contact you (if you have not hired a patent agent) or your agent by phone to discuss your application. Generally, the examiner would only contact you or your agent by phone when there is a minor defect remaining in the application and the examiner would like to discuss how the defect could be corrected, however an examiner may contact you anytime they think it is beneficial to do so. The examiner would give you or your agent an opportunity to submit a response to correct the defect, which in most cases, will result in your application being allowed much sooner than if you had corresponded with the examiner through the traditional route of written office action and formal response.
You or your agent may also call the examiner working on your application in order to discuss aspects of an application and/or to obtain clarification regarding an examiner’s written office action. Note though, if you have a patent agent, the examiner will speak only to that agent.
- Read more about corresponding with an examiner by phone
Our electronic service delivery allows you to:
- file a regular patent application
- file an international patent application (PCT)
- pay maintenance fees and other fees
- submit correspondence or request national entry for a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application
In addition, the CIPO website has a tutorial about writing a patent application.
Patent information—Beyond the basics
Applying for a patent outside Canada
Obtaining a Canadian patent does not protect your invention in another country. If you want this protection, you will have to apply for a foreign patent.
For example, suppose you have invented a mountain-climbing snowmobile and hope to corner the market in countries where the machine may be in demand. You will probably want a patent not only in Canada, but also in the United States, Austria, Germany and wherever else a mountain-climbing snowmobile could be used. You might also want a patent in Japan, where many snowmobiles are manufactured. Otherwise, someone in one of those countries might copy your invention and market it in competition with you.
You may apply for a foreign patent either within Canada, via the Patent Office under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, or directly to the patent office of the foreign country concerned. But no matter how you apply, you will have to abide by the patent laws of that country. Bear in mind that these laws may differ from Canadian laws.
Many countries, like Canada, belong to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, a treaty that allows you to invoke what is called "convention priority." This means that your filing date in one member country will be recognized by all the others provided you file in those countries within a year of your first filing. For example, if you filed in Canada on January 2, 2004, you could file up to one year later in most countries (January 2, 2005) and still be given the same filing rights as if you had filed there in 2004.
Under the Paris Convention, you can also file an application abroad in most countries, and then in Canada. CIPO will recognize the earlier filing date as long as you file a Canadian application within one year of the foreign filing date, and make a priority claim within 16 months of the foreign filing date. Please note that your application will be published 18 months after your convention priority date, not your filing date in Canada.
It is also possible to claim convention priority based on an earlier filed Canadian application.
Addresses of foreign patent offices are available on the CIPO website under International IP links.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty
You may apply for a foreign patent from within Canada through a treaty called the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva. The PCT provides a standard international filing procedure that is shared by our principal trading partners, including the United States, Japan and most of the European community.
Under the PCT, you may file for a patent in as many as 142 member countries through a single application filed in Canada. This procedure is simpler than filing separate applications and can give you more time to raise capital, conduct market studies, etc.
Many countries have online patent information. Links to these websites are available on the CIPO website under International IP links.
When you file under the PCT, you will receive an international search report, which checks your international application against prior publications, and an initial opinion on the patentability of your invention. You will then have the option of corresponding with an examiner about the possibility of amending your application. Ultimately, you will receive an international preliminary report on patentability.
This is no guarantee of a patent; local patent offices in the countries to which you apply reserve the right to conduct their own examinations. However, some patent offices accept the results of the international preliminary report on patentability. This means you will receive a fairly reliable indication before you have to pay fees about whether it is worthwhile to file for multiple patents in foreign countries.
Your application for foreign patents filed under the PCT through CIPO must be in English or French. You may also be required to pay for translation into the languages of the designated countries if you choose to continue in those countries. Eighteen months after filing (or after the priority date, if there is one), your application will be made available to the public.
Only Canadian citizens and residents of Canada can file under the PCT in Canada.
Your application made in Canada under the PCT automatically qualifies for a normal national filing for a Canadian patent application.
Marketing and licensing your patent
Marketing your invention
Now that you have taken steps to protect your creation, you will want to decide the best way to market it and turn a profit. You have a number of options including going into business yourself, licensing the invention or selling your patent.
Setting up your own business allows you to retain full control of your invention, but means you also assume all the risks.
With a licence, you grant one or more companies or individuals the right to manufacture and sell your invention in exchange for royalties. The licence can apply nationally or to only a specific geographic region.
By selling your patent, you give up all rights as inventor, but you could gain an immediate lump sum of money without having to worry about whether the product is a commercial success.
Getting help with marketing
CIPO cannot help you with marketing, but you can receive assistance from other federal or provincial agencies.
A number of sources can provide you with names of Canadian manufacturers who might be interested in a new invention. These sources include the Canadian Trade Index, Fraser's Canadian Trade Directory and thomasnet.com. Such publications are usually available in public libraries, and many are also available online.
If you wish to make your patent available for sale or licensing, you can publicize your intentions through the Canadian Patent Office Record (CPOR). This is a good way to reach potential investors since many business people, researchers and others consult this publication to keep in touch with new technology. You may place a sale/licence notice in the CPOR on the Internet free of charge if you make your request when you pay your fee on the grant of your patent. At any other time, you must pay a fee for this notice.
CIPO has no control over private organizations that promote inventions and cannot advise you about them. Seek guidance from the Better Business Bureau of the city in which the organization is located, from your registered patent agent or from the provincial department responsible for industry or consumer affairs.
CIPO cannot assist inventors, financially or otherwise, to develop and market their inventions. However, other sources of financing, small business advice and support services are available on Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's website or by calling 1-800-328-6189.
For more information on financing, you can explore the various business loans offered by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). To apply online for a loan of less than $50,000, visit the BDC small business loan section.
In addition, you may wish to consult the Canada Business website. This organization provides assistance to small businesses at every stage of business or product development. You may also visit the Info entrepreneurs website for information on small entrepreneurship.
Other websites of interest
The following are just a few additional websites you may find helpful:
- Canada Business Network
- Canadian Patents Database
- European Patent Office
- Japan Patent Office
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- WIPO Intellectual Property Digital Library (WIPO Gold)
- WIPO International Patent Classifications (IPC)
Format of your application
A patent document is simply the final approved application. Below, we provide an example of how an application is formatted. This should give you an idea of how you should craft your abstract, specification (description and , claims ) and drawings. For more information, please view our tutorial on writing a patent application.
Sample text: In a tool for driving posts, it is known to have a guide depending from the hammer to freely embrace the post and slide longitudinally on it. In this invention, handles are secured to the guide such that they extend lengthwise along the outside of it. The tool with the handles may have a lighter hammer and thus may be manually operated, since the handles enable the operator to use his or her own strength to bring the hammer down on the post and hold it against rebound. The guide may have filling pieces secured to the inside to adapt its cross section to the cross section of the post being driven.
The description begins at the top of a new page following the abstract and consists of paragraphs dealing with the following matters in approximately the following order:
- The general character of the class of article or the kind of process to which the invention (that is, the inventive idea) relates.
Sample text: This invention relates to a manually operable tool for driving posts into the ground.
- The nature, in general terms, of the articles or processes previously known or used that are supposed to be improved or replaced by the invention, as well as the difficulties and inconveniences involved.
Sample text: It is common in devices for driving piles and posts to pull up a weight or hammer, for example, by a cable and overhead pulley arrangement, and drop it into the end of the pile or post. It is, of course, necessary that the hammer strike the pile or post squarely, and it has been proposed to provide the hammer with a depending guide which freely embraces and may slide up and down on the post to be driven. Tools of this type are, however, inefficient because the rebound of the hammer results in a loss of energy and a tendency to split the end of the post. They are, moreover, unsatisfactory for manual operation, because the hammer must be heavy to be effective, and the power of the operator is used only in raising the heavy hammer.
- The inventive idea the new article or process embodies, and the way using it overcomes the difficulties and inconveniences of previous practices or proposals.
Sample text: I have found that these disadvantages may be overcome by providing a number of handles secured to the guide and extending lengthwise along the outside of it. Such handles permit the use of a lighter hammer and the elimination of the overhead arrangement, secure a greater effect for the same amount of energy, and reduce splitting of the post, since the power of the operator of the device is used not only to raise the hammer but also to bring it down on the post or hold it against rebound.
- A full description of the best way of using or putting into operation the inventive idea. If there are drawings, the description should follow a list of numbered drawings.
The following is sample text of the form of the list and the description:
- In drawings which illustrate embodiments of the invention, Figure 1 is an elevation partly in section of one embodiment, Figure 2 is a top view of this embodiment, Figure 3 is a section of the line III-III of Figure 1, and Figure 4 is a plan view of another embodiment having only two handles.
- The tool illustrated comprises a guide 1 which is adapted freely to embrace and slide up and down on a post A which is to be driven. It may be of any suitable cross section, but, in the form shown, is a cylinder open at the bottom and closed by a plug 2 at the top which may be the top of the device. The plug 2, which acts as a hammer, fits within the cylinder 1 and is flanged at its edge so as to lie flush with the outer wall of the cylinder. Extending lengthwise of the guide 1 are handles 3 which may be formed from metal tubes, as shown or may, if desired, be made from rods or bars covered with wood facings.
- The handles 3 are secured at their upper ends to bridge pieces 4, for example, by welding, and the bridge pieces 4 are secured as by welding to the plug 2. At their lower ends the handles 3 are flattened for engagement between two arms of a sectional clamping ring 5 fitting around the guide 1 and clamped to it by bolts 6. The lower ends of the handles are extended below the clamping ring, as indicated at 7, for the attachment of extension members (not shown) and, for this purpose, bolt holes 8 are provided in the extensions 7.
- In order to adapt a guide of circular internal cross section to a square post, segmental filling pieces 9 having their flat faces facing inwards may be secured inside it, the distance between opposed flat faces being slightly greater than the thickness of the post. Two filling pieces may be used as shown in Figure 3, but four may be used if desired.
- In the embodiment shown in Figure 4 there are only two lateral extending handles instead of four as in Figures 1-3, but otherwise the construction may be the same as that described above.
- If desired, include other ways in which the inventive idea may be used or put into operation.
Next, you will see an introduction to the claims section in the following words at the top of a new page:
"The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:"
You should begin to write your claims directly beneath this introduction. The following examples illustrate the general form that the claims should take:
- In the case of a machine:
- A manually operable tool for driving posts into the ground, comprising a hammer, a depending guide adapted freely to embrace and slide up and down on the post to be driven, and handles extending lengthwise outside of the guide and rigidly secured thereto.
- A tool as defined in claim 1, in which the guide is a cylinder closed at the top by the hammer.
- A tool as defined in claim 1 or claim 2, in which the guide has filling pieces secured to it in order to adapt its internal cross section to the cross section of the post to be driven into the ground.
- In the case of a process:
- A process for cleaning the surface of a metal, which comprises converting contaminating matter by chemical attack to a residual film which is readily removable by anodic treatment, and removing the formed film by connecting the metal as an anode in an electrolytic system.
- A process as defined in claim 1, in which the metal to be cleaned is iron or steel and the chemical attack consists of treatment of the metal surface with a strongly oxidizing acid.
- A process as claimed in claim 2, in which the residual film is removed in an electrolyte comprising one or more acids or salts thereof.
- In the case of a product:
- An insulated electric conductor comprising a metal sheath, at least one conducting core and, between the core and the sheath, highly compacted mineral insulation constituted by a mixture of two or more pulverulent mineral insulating materials at least one of which will, on exposure to the atmosphere, cause the formation, over the exposed area, of a skin or layer which is substantially impermeable to moisture.
- An insulated electric conductor as defined in claim 1, in which the insulating materials are calcium oxide and magnesia.
- An insulated electric conductor as claimed in claim 2, in which the proportion of calcium oxide in the mixture is between 25 and 40%.
- An insulated electric conductor as defined in claim 1, 2 or 3, in which the insulation resistance is not less than 250 000 ohms for an insulation thickness of 1.5 mm.
Your application must include a drawing whenever such a drawing can show the invention. This will include almost all inventions except chemical compositions or processes. But even these can sometimes be illustrated by a drawing.
If an invention cannot be illustrated with drawings but can be with photographs, you may include, as part of your application, photographs or copies of photographs that show the invention.
Your drawing must show every feature of the invention defined by the claims. There are detailed, specific standards for such things as page size and quality of paper so that issued patents are uniform in style and easy to read and understand. Drawings must meet the following requirements:
- Every sheet must be 21.6 cm wide and 27.9 cm long and shall have a clear margin of at least 2.5 cm on the top and left side, 1.5 cm on the right side, and 1 cm on the bottom.
- The drawing must be prepared with black lines sufficiently dense, dark and well-defined to permit satisfactory reproduction, and must not contain colour.
- Where figures on two or more pages are intended to form a single complete figure, the figures on the several pages must be arranged so that the whole figure can be assembled without concealing any part of the partial figures.
- Elements of the same figure must be in proportion to each other unless a different proportion is indispensable for the clarity of the figure.
- Cross sections must be indicated by hatching that does not impede the clear reading of the reference characters and lead lines.
- Reference characters must be clear and distinct and not less than 3.2 mm in height; the same character must be used for the same feature throughout the application.
- The figures must be numbered consecutively.
- Each sheet of drawings must be on sheets of good quality white paper free of creases and folds, and presented so as to permit direct reproduction by photography, electrostatic processes, photo offset and microfilming.
Small Entity Declaration
The following is an example of a small entity declaration that you can draft for submission. Declarations can be submitted to us electronically, by mail or fax, or in person at our offices.
Note: If the small entity declaration is filed as part of the Petition for grant of a patent, the petition still needs to be signed.
If you file separately from the petition, here is how your declaration should appear:
Attention: Commissioner of Patents
The [applicant/patentee — please indicate name of applicant/patentee] believes that in accordance with the Patent Rules, they are entitled to pay fees at the small entity level in respect of this application and in respect of any patent issued on the basis of this application.
[Identify the application/patent]
Mr. or Ms. applicant/patentee or patent agent
Frequently asked questions
1. What is a patent?
A patent is a government grant giving the right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention. A Canadian patent applies within Canada for 20 years from the date of filing of a patent application. The patent application is available to the public 18 months after filing. Patents cover new and useful inventions (product, composition, machine, process) or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
2. Why get a patent?
Without a patent, you will be able to protect your invention only as a trade secret. Your secret will be out the moment you publish or begin to sell your invention and anyone will be able to exploit your invention.
Even if you can maintain your secret, if someone else independently makes the invention, that person may be able to obtain a patent and prevent you from exploiting the invention.
3. Is a patent application mandatory?
To have patent protection, you must apply for and receive a patent. Since patent laws are national, you must get patent protection in each country in which you want protection.
4. What should I consider before filing a patent application?
Inform yourself, as patent applications can be complex.
Do a preliminary search to find out whether an invention already exists. This may save you much time and the expense of filing a patent application. Start with the Canadian Patents Database.
Remain discreet about your invention or your knowledge and do not freely disseminate details.
5. How is a patent application prepared and filed?
CIPO's patent application tutorial is another helpful reference tool.
Once you're ready, you can apply for your patent in Canada by submitting a patent application by mail with the appropriate fee to our patent office.
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