The protection of intellectual property is compulsory in order to maintain the competitive advantage of revolutionary or innovative technology. This protection ensures the production and sale of a key product, limits competition, creates alternative sources of revenue through user licenses, provides protection against fraudulent use and adds tangible value to an organization.
That said, there are several types of intellectual property:
1) Trade secret
A trade secret generates its value by the simple principle that it is not known and reasonable effort should be taken to keep it secret. Ideas, methods, designs, policies and financial data are all examples of trade secrets.
Since a trade secret has a highly intangible value, it must be protected through confidentiality and discretionary obligations by those who have access to it. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is therefore very important.
A patent is an exclusive right that prevents a third party from producing, using or offering a service or product that is patented. To be patentable, the invention must be new and useful without being obvious or clear to an individual practicing in the same field.
A patent must remain confidential until the application for registration. It must also be filed with each applicable patent office in order to have exclusivity in all markets in which it will be exploited. When the patent expires, exclusivity is withdrawn and third parties can begin marketing the same product.
A trademark is a distinctive feature that allows one to recognize a product or service available on the market. We can think of a word, a symbol, an image or distinctive colors.
A trademark need not be registered to be valid, nevertheless, and as a precaution, its registration is highly recommended.
A copyright is granted to authors of literary, musical or artistic work. The Copyright Act (Canada) provides that computer programs can be considered for copyright under the domain of literary work. In addition, the courts recognize that source codes are a series of written guidelines that equate to a copyright.
The registration of a copyright is not required in order to be protected, however, it gives its owner an assurance that a third party cannot claim that he did not know the existence of the copyright. The addition of the © symbol or the term “copyright” is not required by Canadian law but is recommended given its global familiarity.
It is therefore essential to identify the type of intellectual property applicable to your business in order to take the necessary and concrete measures in order to keep your company different and distinctive from others in the market.
By Audrey Robitaille