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Intellectual Property 101

Are you an entrepreneur, artist, inventor, designer? You may own a piece of land or a building. You probably have furniture, stationery, equipment, inventory, etc. I am willing to bet that you can identify these tangible assets without hesitation, know their exact value, and have wisely taken out adequate protection for all these assets that are so important to the day-to-day running of your business. In the event of a disaster or theft, you can quickly prove with the appropriate documents that these assets were part of your total property.

But have you thought about your intangible assets, that is, your ideas, your processes, or methods, your literary or artistic works, your names, designs and images, your slogan? These are the result of hard work of creativity, innovation, and a considerable investment of time and money. They are part of a class of goods known as intellectual property (IP). IP is important to your business because it allows you to firmly establish your place in the market, increase your competitiveness, and to attract and keep your clients. It can even be used as an asset when negotiating a loan, or for getting investors to help you financially. Isn't it beneficial for you to recognize and assess the IP attached to your business?

The main forms of IP:

Now that you have started a reflection about IP, we can address what exactly is IP and how you would recognize it.

There are several types of IP. Here are the main ones:

Patent: A patent is a protection for a period of 20 years granted by the government to an inventor to enable it to exploit exclusively an invention. Others are strictly excluded from making, using, or selling the invention.

To be afforded protection, an invention must fulfill three conditions:

- Be new (has not already been done or made known to the public - novelty)

- Be useful

- Inventive ingenuity (a solution, a change or improvement of a practice or an already existing product or process)

Industrial Design: Industrial design deals with distinctive decorative elements (such as the shape of the arm of a chair) of a finished manufactured product.

Aesthetic features and originality are important criteria that an industrial design should have to benefit from the legal protection lasting 10 years.

Copyright: The copyright protection is granted to a literary work (book, brochure, text of a presentation, training manual), artistic (painting, drawing, photography), musical or dramatic (movie, play). It allows the author to have the right to reproduce, copy, use or modify its work and enable the use thereof by third parties.

The work must be original (fruit of the creativity of the author) and fixed on a medium. Copyright generally subsists for the life of the author plus 50 years after death.

Trademark: A trademark may be, among other things, a word, a design (logo), a color, configuration of a product, or a combination of words and/ or designs that serve to distinguish the goods and/or services of one business from those of others. A trade name (or business name) may in some cases also be a trademark. A trademark is registered for an initial term of 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely for further periods of 10 years.

With this blog post, I invite you, to take the time to take an inventory of your precious intangible assets.

Jessie Belot, Trademark Agent duly licensed by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

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