If you are starting a business, there are TONS of things you need to think about—everything from getting your business license to setting up a bank account to creating a website. But one area people often neglect relates to Intellectual Property (or IP for short). IP is broadly defined as being any “creations of the mind,” or the set of legal rights individuals or entities attain through intellect in the development of concepts, inventions, and creations. These may be ingenious new inventions, a unique logo, or a creative design. Unfortunately, you can’t protect just an idea, although this is one of the most common misconceptions out there.
As a small business owner, IP can be quite an important and valuable asset in your operations. You will want to educate yourself on how you can best use intellectual property to maximize your profits and also to protect your business and its assets.
Do I own any IP?
There are many different types of intellectual property that you can utilize. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is the governing body for IP in Canada and has created some categories to describe IP. The following are the ones you will most likely come across as a small business owner, along with a brief description of each:
- Patent—refers to newly developed innovations or technologies, or improvements to products and processes
- Trademark—relates to a business name and/or logo
- Copyright—provides the sole right to produce or reproduce original work, like art and literature
- Industrial Design—relates to the physical shape and appearance of a product
- Trade Secret—refers to any important details that you keep a secret, like a recipe
What IP types might apply to me?
Depending on your business activities, you may need to concern yourself with all of them or just some of them. Some of the more specific examples of intellectual assets that your business may encounter include the following:
- Business name—the legal name that your business operates under
- Brand names or logos—the way in which customers identify your products and services
- Slogans—short phrases and taglines that you use in marketing
- Domain names—your website address
- New products or services—business wares that you sell to customers
- Inventions—original and functional products that you have developed
- Software—computer code
- Secret formulas—processes, compositions, and other information that you will not publically disclose
- Customer lists and data—data and information on consumers that is kept private
- Website content—original content created and posted on social media and websites
- Product information—written material on your unique product
As you can see, there are so many different types of intellectual property to be aware of, each with different ways to go about protection. With some, you are given automatic protection (like copyright), but with others, they take significant time and money (like a patent). Check out the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for more details or this blog on how intellectual property can be your best business asset for more information on how you can make intellectual property your most important asset.
Where can I learn more about IP?
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is Canada's headquarters for IP information. Their most requested links for beginners are listed below:
- Search trademarks to determine if your idea might infringe on existing IP
- Learn about trademarks by exploring what trademarks are, how they can benefit you and your organization, and why registration is important
- Apply for a trademark if you're ready to dive right in and protect your IP
- Learn about copyright by exploring what copyright is, the process for registering copyrights in Canada, and the benefits of registration
- Search patents to determine if your idea might infringe on existing IP
- Learn about patents to help understand what patents are and get started with your patent application
- Order IP documents with this list of documents related to IP
April 26, 2018, is World Intellectual Property Day, a day to celebrate the role that intellectual property rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity across the world. This year’s theme is celebrating women who are driving change in the world and shaping the future.
Ready to take your next step towards starting your business?
If you are looking for one-on-one support for your small business, give the Business Link Business Advisors a call at 1-800-272-9675 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the events and webinars pages for upcoming activities!