IP protection in Canada

Last updated: 
22 March 2016

Please note, IP registration and protection can be a complex process, especially in an international context. It is recommended that you seek advice from an IP professional.

 

Profile

Canada has a population of over 35 million, and is the 10th largest economy in the world. In 2015, two-way trade in goods and services between Australia and Canada totalled A$6.2 billion. Canada has two official languages, English and French.

 

IP protection in Canada

You can register IP rights in Canada for trade marks, patents, designs, copyright, and plant varieties.

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is the government agency overseeing most of Canada’s IP system. Plant varieties, or Plant Breeder’s Rights, are administered by the Plant Breeder’s Rights Office.

An address for service in Canada and a local agent or attorney is generally required when seeking IP registration.

 

Trade marks

Significant changes to Canadian trade mark laws are expected to come into effect in 2018. The following information is current as of early 2017 and does not include those amendments.

  • Trade mark applications must be made directly with CIPO. Canada is not yet a member of the Madrid system for the international registration of trade marks.
  • Like Australia, Canada has a “first to use” rule for obtaining trade mark rights, meaning that the first person to use a trade mark in Canada will generally have superior rights to a person who files a trade mark application at a later date.
  • Unregistered trade marks may, in some cases, be protected under common law in Canada. However, a registered trade mark provides statutory protection which offers significant advantages in trade mark disputes.
  • The registrability of a trade mark is considered from both an English and French language perspective; for example, if your trade mark is “Red Flower” you would need to consider “Red”, “Rouge”, “Flower” and “Fleur”.
  • Trade mark registrations may be removed from the register if they are not used over a period of three or more consecutive years after registration.
  • A trade mark’s validity generally has no deadline for being challenged. However, if the registration is more than five years old it cannot be contested on the basis of prior use unless the registered user is demonstrated to have adopted the mark with knowledge of the prior use.
  • There are other circumstances under which a trade mark may be challenged, cancelled or removed. Please check the relevant requirements prior to application.
  • A trade mark registration is valid for 15 years and may be renewed indefinitely for successive 15 year periods upon payment of fees.

 

Patents

  • Applications may be made directly to CIPO or can enter through national phase entry via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
  • Applications can be made for “standard” patents only. Canada does not have a utility model (‘mini patent’) system.
  • Canada has a one-year grace period for public disclosures made by inventors, applicants, or a person who obtained that knowledge directly or indirectly from either the applicant or inventor.
  • If a patent is not used after three years any interested party can file an application for a compulsory license to use the patent.
  • Patent protection is for up to 20 years from the date of filing.

 

Designs

  • Applications may be made directly to CIPO.
  • Registration of a design must be applied for in Canada within one year of the date the design is first published.
  • Protection is available for up to a 10 year period, subject to payment of a maintenance fee prior to the end of the first five-year term.

 

Copyright

  • Like Australia, copyright arises automatically at the time of creation of an eligible work.
  • However, CIPO operates a voluntary registration system under which copyright owners may record their copyright and receive a certificate of registration for a fee. The certificate assists third parties seeking permission to use the work and may be used as evidence of ownership.
  • The term of protection varies depending on the type of work. In general, most published works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years.

 

Plant varieties

  • Applications may be made directly to the Plant Breeder’s Rights Office.
  • All plant species, excluding algae, bacteria and fungi, are eligible for protection.
  • Protection is granted for up to 25 years for trees and vines, or 20 years for all other varieties of plant.

 

Enforcing your IP Rights in Canada

It is your responsibility to protect your IP. You should actively monitor the marketplace for any unauthorised use of your IP.

IP law is complex.  If legal action is necessary, you should consult a legal professional who specialises in IP law.

 

Doing business in Canada

Before entering the business market in Canada, there are a number of factors to take into account including culture, politics and business etiquette.

You can start by taking a look at the extensive information about doing business in Canada on the Austrade website.

 

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