Patent Basics

What is a patent?

A patent grants its owner the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention claimed in the patent document. This right starts from the day the patent is granted to 20 years after the day on which the patent application was filed.

In exchange, the patentee provides a full description of the invention, which is made public so that society can benefit from this advance in technology and knowledge.

Patents cover new inventions, including processes, machines, forms of manufacture and compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention.

Is patent protection worldwide?

The rights given by a Canadian patent extend throughout Canada, but not to other countries. Similarly, foreign patents do not protect an invention in Canada. Patent applications must be filed in each country separately.

In choosing which countries to file patent applications in, many factors might come into play. A patent agent can be helpful in developing a patenting strategy best suited to the invention and the patentee.

What can you patent?

There are three basic criteria for patentability:

  1. The invention must be novel; that is it should be the first in the world).
  2. The invention must show utility; that is it must be functional and operative).
  3. The invention must be unobvious to someone skilled in that area.

The invention can be a product, a composition, an apparatus, a process, or an improvement on any of these. You cannot patent a scientific principle, an abstract theorem or an idea.

When should one apply for a patent?

In Canada, patents are granted to the first application filed for that invention. For this reason, it is recommended to file the patent application as soon as possible after completing the invention.

It is very important not to advertise, display, or publish information about the invention before a patent application is filed. Public disclosure of the invention before filing can be used against the patent application and jeopardize the possibility obtaining a granted patent.

Canada’s Grace Period

In Canada it is possible to file a patent application within 12 months of a public disclosure by the applicant for the patent. This public disclosure is not a bar to patentability as long as the applications is filed by the 1 year anniversary of the public disclosure. Public disclosure includes oral and written disclosures, advertisement, sale or display of information on the invention.