Get a patent

Written by Allan Britnell

The folks in R&D are onto something big. It could change the world you work in. But can you claim it as your own? Is it eligible for patent protection? And how do you go about getting a patent? Paul Field, a patent lawyer with Ogilvy Renault in Toronto, sets the record straight.


Just like filing a tax return, you can file a patent application without hiring a professional. There are numerous books on the subject and you can find guidelines and all the forms you need at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s website, The cost of filing the application depends on the size of your firm and other criteria; check here for exact prices.

Gun for hire

You may decide you’d like professional help. After all, as in hiring an accountant for your taxes, you can benefit from the patent agent’s expertise and insight in the field. You’ll find a list of registered patent lawyers and agents at the CIPO website.

Dos and don’ts

There are restrictions on what can and can’t be patented. “In general, [patent offices] allow patenting of mechanical devices, pharmaceuticals, chemical compositions and electronics,” says Field. However, the rules vary from country to country. In the U.S., for example, you can patent a business method.

Create or innovate

Not every new gizmo or chemical is worthy of patent status. Canada’s Patent Act requires three things: ingenuity, utility and novelty. And take note: just because you have never seen anything like your invention does not mean the patent is yours to claim. “There are plenty of things that are patented that are not on the market,” says Field.

Search and rescue

To find out if your idea is unique, you need to do a patent search. Canadian inventions are usually investigated with the U.S. and Canadian patent offices. If, after the search, your creation appears to be original, it’s finally time to submit your formal application. The patent office will then do its own, more thorough, investigation.

Patent pending

The patent investigation process can take up to two years — after all, the Canadian patent office receives 35,000 applications every year. If your patent is issued, you get proprietary rights to your design for 20 years. If your patent application is rejected — and you’re convinced it shouldn’t have been — you can take the patent office to court.

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© 2003 Allan Britnell

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