Patents are available to protect inventions which include new, non-obvious and useful improvements in a technological field. They can include products, processes, software and other forms of technology. While each country has its own patent system, they generally have many features in common. In Canada, patents have a life of twenty years, measured from the date of application. A patent gives the owner of the patent exclusivity of the technology throughout Canada which prevent others from making, using or selling the patented technology.
International treaties also give Canadians access to patent protection in foreign jurisdictions and similarly, give non-Canadians access to the Canadian patent system. This allows international protection for patents throughout the world. Most countries, including Canada, rely upon a first to file system. Patent rights are given to the inventor who files first. Third parties are then prohibited from trying to patent the same technology, therefore it’s important to file a patent application at the earliest opportunity and secure the earliest possible filing date. Additionally, Canada requires that a patent application be filed within one year of the invention’s first public disclosure (a disclosure is any sharing of the invention to the public, such as at a trade show, for example). If an application is not filed within one year of disclosure, no valid patent will be available.
Patent applications are legal documents with significant complexity. It is strongly recommended that a patent agent be retained for the purposes of preparing and filing a patent application.
The cost of preparing and filing a Canadian patent application varies depending upon the technology and complexity of the invention. For example, an application for a new and improved mousetrap, with several moving parts, would typically cost between six and eight thousand dollars to prepare and file in Canada, depending upon the firm you retained.
Cost of Prosecution
In order to maintain a patent application or a granted patent in good standing, maintenance fees are required to be paid. In Canada, maintenance fees start on the second anniversary of the application date and continue annually until the nineteenth anniversary. The fees increase progressively during that period of time.
Within four years of the application date, an applicant must request that the application be examined by the patent office. Thereafter, additional fees may be incurred during the examination process. At the conclusion of the examination process, a final fee is payable whereby the patent is granted.
Given the expense associated with filing a patent application, it is recommended that a search of ‘prior art’ is conducted, including a search using Google and the databases of Canadian and international patent offices, links to which can be found here.
This article is intended only as a brief introduction to the fundamentals of patent rights protection. If you have a technology that you believe might be patentable and you want more information, you are encouraged to contact us for a free consultation.