Writing IP Right
A media reference guide to intellectual property (IP) in Canada
A key objective of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is to inform and educate the Canadian public and Canadian businesses on the merits, process, and limitations associated with IP laws and regulations. CIPO recognizes that the national, regional, and local media play an important role in this regard. Given that media sources often face deadlines that fall outside conventional office hours, CIPO has prepared the following information as a quick reference guide to help broadcasters, writers, and other media practitioners report accurately on IP issues. This guide is intended to provide clarification on the terminology, definitions, and misconceptions associated with intellectual property in Canada. If you have questions regarding this guide or IP in general, please contact CIPO.
What is CIPO?
CIPO – the Canadian Intellectual Property Office – is a Special Operating Agency associated with Industry Canada; it is responsible for the registration, administration, and processing of certain elements of Canada's IP laws. CIPO's areas of activity include: Patents; Trade-marks; Industrial Designs; Copyrights; and Integrated Circuit Topographies. Please note that Plant Breeders' Rights fall under the administrative jurisdiction of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
What is IP?
"Intellectual property" is a general term that encompasses a number of specific concepts. Patents; Trade-marks; Industrial Designs; Copyrights; Integrated Circuit Topographies; and Plant Breeders' Rights are each a separate and distinct component of intellectual property. They are each administered differently and require a different legislative or regulatory process.
Although journalists have knowledge of a wide range of topics, because IP is inherently complex, understanding the terminology, process, and legislation associated with IP can easily become overwhelming. It is important to remember that media representatives may contact the Industry Canada Media Relations team for help. The Industry Canada Media Relations team is available at 613-943-2502 or via email to answer questions. Please remember to indicate whether you are facing a deadline.
The following concepts relating to intellectual property are commonly the subject of errors in media items. Please find below definitions and clarifications for these terms.
- "Copyrighting an invention"
- An invention cannot be copyrighted. Inventions are usually patented, and those inventions typically display their patent number. Copyright is the exclusive right to copy a creative work or allow someone else to do so. It includes the sole right to publish, produce, or reproduce a work, to perform a work in public, to communicate a work to the public by telecommunication, to translate a work, and, in some cases, to rent a work.
- "Patenting a trade-mark"
- Patents cover inventions; trade-marks do not. 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 something that can be sold. One cannot patent a scientific principle, an abstract theorem, or an idea. Conversely, a trade-mark is a word (or words), a symbol, a design, or a combination of these, used to identify the goods or services of one person or organization and to distinguish these goods or services from those of others in the marketplace. Logos and product names are items that would be eligible to receive a trade-mark designation.
- "Patenting a name"
- A patent cannot be granted for a name. A trade-mark can be granted for a name in some circumstances.
- "Copyrighting a name"
- A copyright cannot be granted for a name. A trade-mark can be granted for a name in some circumstances.
- "Patent pending"
- Is a term referring to the fact that an application for a patent has been filed but the patent has not yet been granted.
- "Trade-marking a copyright"
- A copyright cannot be extended to a trade-mark. While a single product can hold both a trade-mark and a copyright, it is not possible to trade-mark a copyright, to copyright a patent, or to patent a trade-mark.
Remember that CIPO and Industry Canada are available to help should you have any questions regarding intellectual property. The Industry Canada Media Relations team is available at 613-943-2502 or via email to answer questions.