Can You Patent An Idea?

A patent is a legal right that allows an inventor to make exclusive use of his work for a designated period of time. In Canada, patents are granted for a term of 20 years from the date they are filed. By acquiring a patent, the creator can protect his invention or design against unwarranted use by other individuals or businesses. Patents secure an inventor’s rights to their creations and are a driving force for advancing innovation in the country.

When it comes to creating new products and technologies, ideas are crucial. Successful businesses are built on innovative ideas. Unfortunately, an idea by itself is not patentable. An idea is not the same thing as an invention. Simply having a brilliant idea without knowing how to create the product or make it work is not enough. You must be able to describe the different components required and how these pieces fit together. It must be something tangible. To patent an invention, you need to file an application with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and meet their basic criteria for patentability. The following steps provide a guide line to protecting your invention:

1) Conduct Thorough Research

Conducting research before applying for the patent can be beneficial. It provides you with a general idea as to what others have patented and what is known in the industry. The research should be directed towards these points:

  • Determine if your idea is new and useful – A patentable invention should be new and one that can be put into practical use. Make sure that your idea is not common or familiar to other inventors. At this stage, consider who your target audience will be.
  • Determine if you are eligible to file for a patent- If you have an invention that you want to patent, review the eligibility criteria for filing an application. If you have partnered up with another person to develop the design, you may need to apply as joint inventors.
  • Conduct research to see if your invention has already been patented – Check with CIPO regarding the same or go through their patent list. However, keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive. It’s recommended that you consult a patent agent to assist with this research. An experienced Intellectual Property (IP) agent can help you determine if your invention meets the criteria for patentability or not.

2) File an Application

A inventor may choose to file their own patent application, however it is often beneficial to have a skilled patent agent draft the application on your behalf. Your invention should be described in detail. Once you have filed the application, it will be reviewed by a patent examiner to determine whether the criteria to obtain an issued patent have been met.

3) Apply at CIPO

CIPO is the Canadian authority responsible for issuance and processing of all intellectual property in Canada. The patentability of your invention is determined by them. If they do not raise any objections, your patent is allowed. If they do not find your invention unique or they consider it to be obvious, it may be rejected.

Follow these guidelines when going through the patent process. The patent process can be quite complex and small mistakes can render a patent useless. Consulting an experienced law firm can help you understand the legal complexities associated with it better.