Protect new ideas and creations

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind and usually starts with an idea, a creative moment, a discussion or a draft. Although more work goes into the process before these creations are formally protected, innovating firms can capture and retain new IP as it is generated by using methods such as the following:

Invention disclosures

An invention disclosure is a record of an invention. It is a document written by the inventor or inventors that details what was invented. This document can be used to establish inventorship, and possibly ownership. An invention disclosure is often used to start the process of filing a patent application.

Tip: capture creations as they happen

Make sure creations are captured as they happen. Require inventors to write a formal invention disclosure for each invention. Have an internal committee review the invention disclosures before filing any patent applications. Make sure invention disclosure policies are part of employment and third party contracts.

Tip: compensate inventors as an incentive to create and disclose inventions

Compensating inventors may serve as a good incentive to facilitate the creation and disclosure of inventions. Compensation may be based on factors like the number of ideas generated, patent applications filed or patents issued or on the revenue generated from the ideas. If compensation is based on the generated revenue, additional procedures for tracking sales may be required.

Consider having inventors use physical or electronic "lab books" to document ideas and explorations.

Confidentiality agreements

A confidentiality agreement (also known as a non-disclosure agreement) is a contract between 2 or more parties. In the agreement, at least 1 party agrees to keep certain information secret that was disclosed by another party or parties. They promise to keep the information confidential and not to disclose it to anyone else.

Tip: use non-disclosure agreements

These can make sure employees and contractors maintain their confidentiality. Confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements are especially important to maintain the value of trade secrets and inventions that do not yet have formal protection. Terms of non-disclosure agreements can be included in employment or third party contracts.

Tip: do not disclose your unprotected idea

Even though Canada has a 12-month grace period, inventions are generally not patentable in many other countries if they have already been publicly disclosed.

Trade secrets

Trade secrets include any valuable business information that has commercial value derived from its secrecy. Trade secrets can also be used to ensure an invention or a design is not disclosed to the public before an application is made for a patent or an industrial design.

Tip: create records to establish and document protection

In order to keep trade secret information confidential, use a comprehensive set of policies and procedures with respect to categorizing, recording and accessing such information. This may help minimize or eliminate trade secret breaches and, in case of a breach, determine compensation.

Tip: track access to the confidential information

Use a document tracking system to keep track of who accesses the confidential information, when and for how long. Such a system can be valuable in minimizing, eliminating or investigating trade secret thefts, while also demonstrating that the company took active measures to protect trade secrets. Limit access to only those with appropriate access privileges by using encryption.

Tip: minimize access to confidential information

Limit access to confidential information to only employees who need access to carry out their duties. Appoint an expert in confidential information to review and pre-authorize correspondence with third parties.

Tip: use contracts

Trade secrets are most often lost through theft by employees or third parties. Before sharing sensitive information, put in place non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements. When an employee are leaving the company, consider issuing a termination certificate in which the employee certifies that they have not misused any confidential information and will not do so in the future.

Tip: educate your employees

Limit the accidental sharing of trade secrets by educating and reminding your employees about the importance of keeping trade secret information confidential. Create a written policy describing how confidential information is to be managed.

Tip: learn how to dispose of confidential information

Use specialized software to delete confidential digital data. Similarly, use reputable services to delete all physical proprietary and confidential information. Learn about federal and provincial legislation that requires the deletion of certain personal data related to individuals and companies.

Learn more about trade secrets.


An original work is automatically protected by copyright the moment you create it. Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software and architecture. The author or creator of the work is usually the first owner of copyright, unless the work is made in the course of employment by an employee.

Tip: make copyright agreements with freelancers, contractors and employees

Before any work starts, have copyright agreements with freelancers, contractors, employees and any others you hire. These agreements should ensure that the copyright is transferred to your business and should include moral right waivers.

Tip: make sure your copyright policy respects international rights

Each country is governed by its own domestic copyright laws. Make sure your copyright policy conforms to international laws, especially if you work with or use content created in other countries.

Learn more about copyright.