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What Is a Patent?

To obtain a Canadian patent, submit an application with the appropriate fee to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (

1. A patent is a document that protects the rights of an inventor.

Patents protect inventors by preventing others from making, selling, or using their inventions from the day the patent is issued for a maximum of 20 years. Inventors may use their patents in various ways, such as selling or licensing them, or using them as leverage in negotiating funding.

Canadian patent rights extend throughout Canada, but not to foreign countries. You must apply for patent rights in other countries separately. Equally, foreign patents do not protect inventions in Canada.

2. A patent is a document that acts as a repository of useful technical information for the public.

A full description of the invention is filed with each patent application, and all Canadians can draw from this addition to the pool of technological knowledge.

People may read about, though not produce, use or sell, an invention without the inventor's permission. Once a patent has expired, or lapsed for non-payment of maintenance fees, anyone may freely produce, use or sell the invention. This promotes the sharing of technological information while giving the patent-holder a monopoly on his or her creation.


What Do Patents Cover?

Patents cover inventions of five types:

  1. process: a method for doing or making something
  2. apparatus: a mechanism or tool, such as a machine for doing specific tasks in the manufacture of a product
  3. product: an item that is manufactured or made
  4. composition: generally a chemical composition, such as a chemical compound for specific use
  5. improvement: a new and useful addition or alteration to an existing invention