IP and innovation: what kind of protection do you need?

Protecting your intellectual property (IP) is a step that is sometimes forgotten or even ignored by the founders and foundresses of startups. the idea that IP should only be part of a business strategy when you're in the world of technology is wrong.

IP can play a significant role in a start-up's growth. startup, no matter what field you're in. you'll see in this BDC article article, you'll see how IP and entrepreneurial growth are intimately linked. No matter how you do it, even if it's not obvious at first, IP can help propel your business forward, here or elsewhere.

back to basics: there are 4 types of intellectual property protection.

  1. patent
  2. industrial design
  3. trade name
  4. copyright

the usefulness of patents: protecting technological innovation

It's no surprise that patents are the best-known form of intellectual property protection. However, entrepreneurs are not always aware of the extent of this protection, or even of its application. Take, for example, a company selling chocolate cookies. 

in Canada, there are 3 essential criteria for patentability: novelty, non-obviousness and utility. culinary creations are no exception to this rule; even if a list of ingredients and their quantities is not protectable as such, it is possible for a company to patent certain key elements of its recipe. if a chemical compound in the ingredients or a process used in the recipe is innovative, there's a good chance it could benefit from a patent. 

in CanadaPatents provide 20 years of protection for the inventor, according to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the department that administers patents in Canada.

what is the purpose of an industrial drawing?

industrial design concerns the look of a product and includes its configuration and/or shape. in the case of our cookie company, we might have imagined a cookie tin with a new and original look. we could then obtain exclusive rights to our creation by registering an industrial design. 

attention: to be protected, an industrial design must be registered. The registration period is 5 years, and can be extended to 10 years, giving a total protection period of 15 years. 

trademark: distinguish yourself from the competition

the commercial success of a sales and marketing plan cannot be achieved without considering the question of trademark.

among other marketing or brand-identification elements, a trademark provides protection for those elements that distinguish a product or service from the competition. Trademarks include your company name, logo and the way you identify your goods and services.

all trademarks are registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

copyright: protecting works of the mind

we can't overlook copyright and the protection it confers on so-called "intellectual" works.

Let's imagine that our cookie company went into the publishing business; its recipe book would be protected by copyright as aliterary work. and unlike patents or trademarks, copyright is automatic for original works; in fact, copyright grants the creator exclusive rights over his or her work as soon as it is created, without the need for any formal procedure.

trade secrets: staying one step ahead

just like copyright, trade secrets do not require a formal procedure, but can be considered as a way of guaranteeing IP protection. the aim is to limit and restrict access to intellectual property. our cookie company could, for example, ask its employees to sign confidentiality policies, or establish more restrictive security measures, such as limiting the number of people with access to the cookie recipe.

even in the absence of direct legislative channels, it is possible to take legal action against those who improperly steal trade secrets. trade secrets. to bring an action, the holder of the secret must prove that the stolen information has commercial value, that the information is secret, and that the company has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the information remains confidential.

in short, intellectual property is an indispensable asset for your company's growth.

As you will have gathered from your reading, a sound intellectual property (IP) strategy can take many different forms to protect and grow your startupWhether it's to prevent your product or service from being counterfeited, to stand out from the competition or to prevent others from appropriating your ideas, you need to think carefully about your IP strategy. After all, your ideas are the assets that make up the value of your business, right from the start. why do without them?

Want to learn more about intellectual property? Take a look at our IP training course for innovative entrepreneurs.

and if you'd like to know more about the importance of having a good intellectual property strategy, the episode Why IP Matters episode of the Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) podcast is a mine of information on the subject.