Patents – Learn the basics
Inventing the next big thing. Learn why patents matter.

Welcome to the Patents – Learn the basics online module

Did you invent something new, inventive and useful?

Did you improve or upgrade something already invented?

Find out what patents are and how they can be a valuable asset to your business.

Refine your knowledge and understanding of patents and how to make strategic use of them.

This module is aimed at those who would like to learn about intellectual property (IP), specifically patents, such as:

  • entrepreneurs
  • innovators
  • creators
  • Canadian small and medium-sized businesses

In this module, you will learn:

  1. what a patent is
  2. which inventions are patentable
  3. how patents can be a valuable business asset
  4. the steps involved in filing a patent application
  5. best practices on managing your patent portfolio

IP refers to creations of the mind, such as designs, literary and artistic works, symbols, names and images used in commerce, as well as inventions.

An invention can be a:

  • device
  • substance
  • method
  • process

An invention could be eligible for a patent if it is:

  • new
  • useful
  • inventive

Inventions are not automatically protected by law. If you invented something, keep its details secret until you have decided how best to protect it.

Understanding patents

What is an invention?

An invention is a new, inventive and useful solution to a problem.

It can be a novel device, process or product.

Inventions that meet the criteria for patentability can be protected through patents.

What is a patent?

A patent is a form of intellectual property granted by a government that confirms the exclusive right to an invention for a period of up to 20 years.

A patent is only valid in the country where it is granted.

You cannot obtain an international patent.

What can be patented?


Virtual reality glasses


Distillery process and method for bottling liquid


Sewing machine

Compositions of matter

Chemical composition

What cannot be patented?

Higher life forms

Animal, plant or cellular organism

Mathematical models and formulas

Mathematical equation


Idea in someone's mind

Improving existing inventions

An invention does not have to be an entirely new device, process or product.

It can be—and is most likely to be—an improvement to an existing invention.

About 90% of patents are for improvements to existing patented inventions.

Headphones have existed for a century but continue to evolve with technology.

Patentability criteria

The criteria for patentable inventions are found in the Patent Act, which is the federal legislation governing patent law in Canada.

How do you know if you have an invention eligible for a patent?

Your invention must be new, useful and non-obvious.


Your invention must be the first of its kind in the world.

It must not be known to the general public in writing or in any other form anywhere in the world before the application is filed.


Your invention must work at a practical level and have a useful function.

It simply has to have a use.


Your invention must be something that a person with relevant technical experience and knowledge would not have thought of.

How to obtain a patent?

Start by submitting a patent application to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) to secure a filing date.

In Canada, patents are granted to the first person to file an application.

Patent rights

A patent gives you the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using or selling your invention in any manner.

This only applies to countries that have granted you a patent.

It is valid for up to 20 years from the date you file your application.

Value added by patents

Holding a patent can boost investor and stakeholder confidence.

It makes it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to attract financing from investors in order to take their business to the next level.

Patents can also give you a competitive edge and ensure market exclusivity by acting as a barrier for your competitors.

Remember: The patent holder is the sole person with the exclusive right to use, sell and manufacture the innovative technology for up to 20 years.

Patents can also be a revenue source.

You can use your patented technology for the purpose of:

  • Exploiting
    You can use, manufacture or sell your invention directly to consumers in the marketplace.
  • Licensing
    You can allow another party to exploit your patent for monthly royalties.
  • Assigning
    You can sell or transfer your patent ownership to another party for an immediate lump sum of money.

Using patents strategically

Commercialize your invention

Turn your patent into dollars!

Getting legal rights to your invention through a patent gives you proof of ownership. This is crucial to gaining the most commercial value.

Turn your know-how into a commercial asset!

Holding a patent may open up opportunities for business growth and job creation.

Consider a licensing agreement. For start-up businesses, licensing is typically the fastest way to generate cash flow.

What are some of the benefits of licensing your patent?

  • Leverage existing manufacturing deals and distribution channels
  • Access existing markets and benefit from established names
  • Reinvest in further research and development
  • Use revenues earned from monetizing your patent to finance further research and development for your company

Export your invention

You must obtain a separate patent for each country where you seek protection.

Consider strategically filing for patent rights in countries where you plan on doing business—to sell or manufacture products, license your technology or assign your IP to another party.

For more information on seeking patent protection internationally, consult the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) web page on the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Applying for a patent in Canada

Be the first to file

Patents are granted to the first person to file an application.

File as soon as possible in case someone else is on a similar track.

Keep secrecy before applying

Keeping secrecy before filing is crucial to prevent others from filing for the same invention before you.

Consider confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements if you must reveal your invention to anyone before you file your patent application.

If you publicly disclose your invention before filing, it may be impossible to obtain a patent because the invention will no longer be considered new.

However, you could benefit from Canada's 12-month grace period, which allows applicants to file after disclosing the invention.

Search patent databases

Before you file, search for existing patents or patent applications. This will determine if your invention, or a similar one, has been patented already.

Start with the Canadian Patents Database on the CIPO website.

Search using key words, the name of the inventor, the owner or the applicant, or any other relevant terms. You should also search international databases to see what has been patented across the world.

Understand the application process

Make sure you understand the patent application process at CIPO.

Consult the roadmap for a visual representation.

Submit your application

Use our electronic services to file your application and pay fees online, or mail your application and payment to CIPO.

CIPO will only accept applications in English or French.

To receive an official filing date in Canada, you must include in your application:

  • a statement that a patent is sought
  • a document describing your invention
  • your name and address
  • the filing fee and, if applicable, a signed small entity declaration

Note: An entity is considered small if it employs 50 or fewer employees or is a university.

While you can get a filing date without sending in a complete application, you should make your first application as complete and descriptive as possible.

CIPO must receive your complete application within 15 months of the filing date.

Publication of your patent application

Your complete application will be published in the Canadian Patents Database generally 18 months after filing.

Request examination

Patent applications are not automatically examined simply because they have been filed.

You must request that your patent application be examined within five years of the Canadian filing date and pay the examination fee. Otherwise, your application will be considered abandoned.

The examination process could take up to a few years to complete because CIPO receives a large number of patent applications.

For more information on response times, take a look at CIPO's service standards.

Advanced examination

You can pay an advanced examination fee ($500) in addition to the request for examination fee to accelerate the examination of your patent application.

There are other ways to fast-track the examination of your application. Follow these links for more information.

What happens during examination

A patent examiner will review your application and decide whether your invention is new, useful and non-obvious, as per patent legislation.

If your application is not acceptable, the examiner will explain why, and you will then have a chance to make changes to it.

Obtain your patent

If everything is in order, you will receive a Notice of Allowance by mail, and you will then have six months to pay your final fee.

CIPO will mail the patent grant to you within eight weeks of receiving the final fee.

Standard fees

For financial planning purposes, see the list of standard fees for patents.

Managing your patent

Pay annual maintenance fees

Keep your patent application or granted patent in good standing by paying annual maintenance fees.

The first payment is due no later than the second anniversary of the filing date.

Monitor patent infringement

It is your responsibility to monitor the marketplace for any unauthorized use of your patented item.

If someone is infringing on your rights, take action.

Consider seeking the help of an IP professional, as litigation matters can become complex.

Consider alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration, mediation and negotiation to solve IP litigation situations.

How to detect patent infringement

Here are some tips for detecting patent infringement:

  • Monitor your competitors. Look at their products and check for copycats.
  • Attend trade shows and look for new products on display that will be marketed.
  • Do online research related to your technological field, read journal articles and look for companies looking to tap into your field.
  • Set online alerts to stay informed of new developments and key words that are of interest to you.

Revise your patent portfolio

Consider the following tips to effectively manage and increase the value of your patent portfolio:

  • Regularly evaluate your individual patents and align each one with your current business goals. Identify those that fall outside of these goals.
  • Consider selling under-utilized or unused patents to free resources, as maintaining such rights can get expensive.
  • Consult with technology or industry experts before selling any of your patents or letting them expire.

By eliminating inefficiency, you are focusing on generating solid new business growth.


CIPO website – Patents

Start with the Patents webpage on the CIPO website. It contains a wealth of resources related to patent protection in Canada.

Consult the Patents webpage to learn more.

Patent Appeal Board

The Patent Appeal Board conducts independent reviews and provides recommendations, mainly in instances of rejected applications and determinations of first filer in patent conflict situations.

Consult the Patent Appeal Board webpage to learn more.

World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO has a resourceful section on patents and provides an international angle to patent protection.

Consult the WIPO webpage on patents.

IP professionals – Patent agent

Understanding patent law and going through the patent process can be complex. Consider hiring a patent agent to help you navigate through it all. Just remember to factor in the associated costs.

What can a patent agent do for you?

  • Assess your invention
  • Provide you with insights
  • Conduct research (such as researching existing patents)
  • Assist in writing the application with appropriate technical language
  • Represent you

CIPO provides a list of registered patent agents who are authorized to represent applicants before the Office.

Note: CIPO cannot recommend any particular agent for you.

Hiring an IP professional

For more information on choosing and consulting an IP professional, as well as the related cost, consult CIPO's resource on hiring an IP professional.

Final word

Thank you for completing the Patents – Learn the basics online module!

Seeking patent protection is a strategic decision that can protect your interests as the inventor by ensuring that you can control the commercial use of your invention.

A patent can be an important component of a solid IP protection strategy. Make sure to maintain, account for, value, closely monitor and manage your patent in order to gain the most of its value!

To learn more about IP rights, check out the other online modules on trademarks, copyright and industrial designs to see how they could also protect your innovation and support your business growth.

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