2020-2021 Annual Report
Delivering quality and timely IP rights

The delivery of quality and timely IP rights is CIPO's core business. In 2020−2021, the COVID-19 pandemic created a number of challenges that impacted CIPO operations and turnaround times. To stay ahead during these unprecedented times, we developed a weekly dashboard to track how the pandemic was affecting our clients, operations and revenues, and adjusted our forecasting methodology to provide weekly updates on the expected impact of the pandemic on IP filing and renewal behaviour. This intelligence enabled us to make evidence-based decisions regarding production and resource allocation as we worked through the uncertainty of the unprecedented economic and societal shutdowns that resulted from COVID-19.

A client-focused approach to quality

CIPO's Quality Management Framework establishes a common and corporate quality strategy for all of our processes. In 2017, our Patent Branch was certified as compliant with the ISO 9001:2015 standard for quality management and in 2020, following a successful audit of our quality management system, the certification was renewed. There was a similar effort to manage quality in our Trademarks and Industrial Designs Branch through the introduction of a review panel and the continuous development of staff with a focus on consistency, efficiency and client service.

To increase transparency with stakeholders on the quality and timeliness of patent products and services, CIPO introduced new patent metrics on its website. The web page features the latest statistics on quality, search recordings, pendency, efficiency and applicant feedback, as well as a questionnaire on the usefulness of the information help improve future iterations of the metrics shown.

Operational efficiency


In 2020−2021, CIPO received 37,164 patent applications and granted 22,451 new patents (compared with 21,005 new patents granted in 2019−2020). The average turnaround time—the time between a client's request for examination and the moment a patent is granted—was 31.1 months, the same as in 2019–2020. To increase efficiencies in the examination process, CIPO continued to promote the use of the patent interview service. This service allows clients to discuss a patent application directly with the examiner and obtain suggestions or advice, resulting in faster resolution of issues and lower turnaround times.

In November 2020, following a Federal Court decision, CIPO published a practice notice on patentable subject matter. The notice provided updated guidance on CIPO's current understanding of the legal principles applicable in determining whether a particular subject matter is patentable, particularly in respect to computer-implemented inventions, medical diagnostic methods and medical uses. Training on this new office practice was provided to all patent examiners and members of the PAB.

The PAB provides an independent review of rejected patent applications. In 2020−2021, the PAB received 52 rejected patent applications, down from 71 in 2019−2020. On average, the turnaround time for issuing a decision on an appeal was 25.4 months, down from 30.1 months the previous year. To reduce turnaround times for patent appeals, CIPO extended a pilot project where certain rejected electrical patent applications are reviewed by a single board member instead of 3.


Since Canada's accession to 3 international trademarks treaties, CIPO has seen a steady increase in trademark applications. In 2020−2021, CIPO received 76,168 trademark applications, including 20,779 protocol applications. This marked an 11% increase in the total number of applications filed over the previous year. As a result, CIPO saw an increase in inventory that was further compounded by the impacts of the pandemic on trademark operations. A growing inventory meant that average turnaround times for clients remained high (average of 34.2 months from filing to registration in 2020−2021, compared with 35.3 months the previous year). To mitigate the increase in applications and long turnaround times, CIPO initiated a robust hiring campaign to augment its trademark examination capacity. Further, changes to examination practices were made. A panel of senior trademark examiners was assembled to review pending applications and provide guidance and best practices. A telephone amendment practice was also introduced to enable examiners and proponents to resolve, over the phone, a number of defined deficiencies found in trademark applications. This practice eliminates the need to issue an office action for certain deficiencies, which can reduce registration pendency by up to 6 months. In the near future, CIPO is looking to leverage AI solutions to further increase the quality and efficiency of its trademark processes.

In conjunction with the trademark offices of the United States, the European Union, Japan, China and Republic of Korea (collectively referred to as the TM5), CIPO adopted the use of common status descriptors on its online trademarks database. These common terms and icons represent a shared language to communicate the status of trademark applications and registrations, delivering a more harmonized and user-friendly online search experience for trademark users around the world.

The TMOB hears cases where someone objects to the registration of a trademark or requests that a trademark registration be expunged. In 2020−2021, the TMOB faced multiple challenges created by the pandemic, yet was able to transition quickly, making use of available IT solutions to conduct hearings online. In 2020−2021, the TMOB held approximately 67% more hearings than in the previous year. All hearings were conducted online, including those requiring simultaneous translation. In a multi-year effort to reduce the turnaround time to issue a decision, 4 new hearing officers were hired, and were the first to be trained using a newly developed virtual training program.

Industrial designs

Industrial design filings at CIPO have continued to increase year over year, mostly recently supported by Canada's accession to the Hague Agreement in October 2018. In 20202021, CIPO received 8,161 industrial design applications, including 3,010 Hague applications, which represents a 10% increase from the previous year's total number of applications. Owing to the impact of the pandemic on CIPO operations, CIPO registered fewer industrial designs in 20202021 (5,095) than in the previous year (5,343) and saw inventory levels rise. Turnaround times remained relatively stable (average of 13.6 months from filing to allowance in 20202021 compared with 13.7 months in 20192020). Moving forward, CIPO is taking steps to improve turnaround times for industrial design registrations by recruiting additional examiners and turning to artificial intelligence-based solutions to improve process efficiency.