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Patent FAQs

What is a patent? How long does a patent last...


What is a patent?

A patent is a right granted by a national government, upon application, and in exchange for a complete disclosure of an invention. The disclosure is initially a confidential disclosure to the patent office, which later becomes a non-confidential disclosure to the public at large. A patent grants to the applicant the right to exclude others from making, using or selling the claimed invention for a period of time.

How long does a patent last?

In Canada and the U.S. a patent is valid for 20 years from the date of application.

Is my patent recognized in other countries?

Patents do not cross national boundaries, and at present, there is no such thing as a single “world-wide” patent. Each country grants its own patents based on its own standards.

In Europe, it is possible to file a single application (in English, French or German) to the European Patent Office to protect one's rights in up to 27 European countries. A single regional patent is granted but is not effective until it is approved in each National Patent Office selected by the applicant by paying the appropriate national fees, translating into the local language, and meeting local requirements as to form of claims, etc.

What is the difference between copyright, patents, and trade-marks?

Although there can be some overlap between these types of intellectual property regimes, they protect slightly different aspects, and there are different laws and procedures for each with substantially different implications. In general:

  • Patents protect new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter), or any new and useful improvement of an existing invention. A patent must be applied for in each country where you wish to have this protection.  
  • Copyright protects literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs), as well as performance, sound recording and communication signal. Copyright does not have to be applied for or registered to be valid, and is recognized in almost all countries.
  • Trade-marks protect a word, symbol or design (or any combination of these features), used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace. Trade-marks do not need to be registered.