What is a patent?

Whether you develop new technology or improve well-known products or processes, you’ll want to know more about patents.

Patents apply to newly developed technology as well as to improvements on products or processes. Patents provide a time-limited, legally protected, exclusive right to make, use and sell an invention. In this way, patents serve as a reward for ingenuity.

Patents can be valuable

Patent protection applies in the country or region that issues the patent. In Canada, a patent lasts for 20 years from date that you file it. Patents can have a great deal of value. You can sell them, license them or use them as assets to attract funding from investors.

In exchange for these benefits, you must provide a full description of the invention when you file a patent. This helps enrich technical knowledge worldwide. Details of patent applications filed in Canada are disclosed to the public after an 18-month period of confidentiality.

To be eligible for patent protection, your invention must be:

  • new—first in the world
  • useful—functional and operative
  • inventive—showing ingenuity and not obvious to someone of average skill who works in the field of your invention

The invention can be:

  • a product (e.g., door lock)
  • a composition (e.g., chemical composition used in lubricants for door locks)
  • a machine (e.g., for making door locks)
  • a process (e.g., a method for making door locks)
  • an improvement on any of these

Patents are granted to the first applicant

In Canada, the first applicant to file a patent application is entitled to obtain the patent. You should file as soon as possible after you complete an invention in case someone else is on a similar track.

Any public disclosure of an invention before filing may make it impossible to obtain a patent. There is an exception in Canada and the United States if the public disclosure was made by the inventor or by someone who learned of the invention from the inventor less than one year before filing the patent application. Please be aware that in some countries disclosing the invention to the public anywhere in the world before filing a patent application may, in many circumstances, prevent the inventor from obtaining a patent.