How to protect your small business from intellectual property (IP) pirates

(NC) If you’re a small business owner, you need to make sure you’re protecting your assets, including your intellectual property. These intangible assets include inventions, new technologies, new brands, original software, novel designs, unique processes, and much more.

Protecting your intellectual property (IP) can give your business a competitive advantage over other players in the market. If your company wishes to export to certain markets, you will also need to seek protection rights in those countries. Your intellectual assets have the potential to make you a great deal of money.

But how you protect, manage and leverage your IP depends on the type of asset you have. Learn about the different types to get started:

Patent. Patents cover new inventions or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention. Granted to you by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, a patent gives you the right to exclude others from making, using or selling your invention. Once granted, your Canadian patent applies within Canada for up to a maximum of 20 years from the date you file the application.

Industrial design. An industrial design is the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament, or any combination of these features, applied to a finished article. For example, the shape of a table or the shape and decoration of a spoon may be industrial designs. To be eligible for registration, your design must be original.

Trademark.  A trademark may be one or a combination of letters, words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace.

Copyright. This gives you the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it, in any form. It includes the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it or, in the case of a lecture, to deliver it. Copyright provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works, and computer programs.

Trade secrets. A trade secret includes any valuable business information that derives its worth from the secrecy. Trade secrets include various assets such as sales methods, distribution methods, customer profiles, client lists, supplier lists, and product ingredients and formulas.

Remember, protecting your assets alone does not protect you from IP pirates. You still need to enforce your rights. If you think that your IP assets have been infringed, there are other avenues besides litigation to resolve disputes. Learn more at

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