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Patents and Designs

What is a Patent? (Canada)

All about Patents and Designs


A patent is a legal right granted by a government to an inventor that protects a new and non-obvious invention, or improvement on an existing invention, for a limited time. In most countries patents are valid for 20 years. A patent grants an inventor (or patent owner) the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale or importing an invention during the life of the patent. Inventions that are eligible for patent protection include new processes, machines, manufactures, and compositions of matter. You can not patent a scientific principle, abstract idea, method of doing business, or written or artistic work. Some countries do not grant patents for medical therapies, computer software or genetically modified animals and plants.

Industrial Designs (Design Patents)

Industrial designs, known in the U.S. as design patents, protect the shape, configuration, appearance or ornamention applied to a product. Industrial designs have shorter terms than patents, usually 10 to 15 years.

Plant Patent (US)

First granted in 1931, plant patents protect new varieties of asexually reproducing plants (reproducing by means other than seeds). New varieties of plants, both asexually and sexually reproducing, may be eligible for protection under other national laws and international treaties such as the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). The term of a plant patent is 20 years.

Reissue Patent

An amended patent that supercedes an original patent but expires on the same date. Reissue patents are granted when an inventor is entitled to claim additional features that were not included in their original patent application. Canadian and U.S. patent laws allow for reissue patents.

Utility Model

A utility model protects minor inventions that may not be eligible for full patent protection. In general, utility model terms are much shorter than patent terms, usually 6 to 10 years. Countries that allow registration of utility models include China, Germany, Japan, Korea and Mexico. Utility model protection is not available in Canada and the U.S.


Citing Patents and Designs

Patent and Design Numbers

Patents and designs are often identified and cited by their numbers, which are composed of three elements:

  1. Country code
  2. Serial number
  3. Publication kind code

For example, in CA 2821077 (A1),

  • CA is the country code for Canada
  • 2821077 is the serial number
  • A1 is the kind code for a published application

Citing Patents and Designs

The format for citing a patent will vary depending on the style guide or journal guidelines. Below are a few examples.

ACS Style

Inventor(s). Title of Patent. Country x,xxx,xxx, Month, day, year.

Santerre, P. J. Fluoroligomer Surface Modifiers for Polymers and Articles Made Therefrom. Canadian Patent 2,228,505 C, November 11, 2007

IEEE Style

Inventor(s), "Title of patent," Country x,xxx,xxx, Month, day, year.

C. Deguire and L. J. Caron L'Ecuyer, "Portable robotic arm," Canadian Patent Appl. 2,739,727 A1, April 15, 2010.

ISO Style (ISO 690:2010)

Deguire C, Caron L'Ecuyer LJ, inventors; Kinova, assignee. Portable robotic arm. CA patent appl. 2,739,727 A1. 2010 Apr. 15.