ID® TRADEMARK ARTICLES AND PUBLICATIONS

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN BUSINESS

By Isabelle Deshaies

RECOGNIZING AND INVESTING IN THE COMPANY'S INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES

Do you own an intellectual property? If you are thinking of starting a business or launching a new product, if you've created a web site or if you have produced a specific design or invented something, you may own an intellectual property. It is time to introduce you to an Intellectual Property professional that will inform you and guide you on the best way to protect that “Intellectual Property” and make it a valuable asset for your company.

Put simply, an intellectual property is the concrete result of an idea. It is not the idea itself, from which real rights may result, called “intellectual property rights”. These rights are recognized under specific legislations and Common Law practice (use). The following will guide you as to whether it is time to take steps to identify and protect your intellectual properties.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES: GENERAL DEFINITIONS

Intellectual properties are the intangible assets owned by a company or individuals. The most common Intellectual properties are:

Trade-mark:
Distinctive sign (word, design, color, etc.) enabling consumers to recognize a product or service from its competitors. A trade-mark is protected when used, as long as it does not infringe prior rights. Registration of the trade-mark is a prima facie evidence of ownership and grants its owner an exclusive right to use it across Canada. Trade-marks are consumers' reliability indicator of the origin and quality of a product or service.For the company, they are a promotional vehicle and, more importantly, its image and reputation.

Patent:
Invention – product, composition or apparatus that is new, useful and ingenious – protected under the Patent Act. Registration of an invention as a patent enables the owner to exclusively make, use and sell the invention for 20 years (in Canada). A patent is considered the most valuable intellectual property asset due to its novelty and exclusivity character.

Industrial design:
Distinctive and new forms of a product or of a design on a product. Registration grants the right of commercializing the same for at the most 10 years (in Canada).

Copyright:
Original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work. Rights exist at the creation of the work and are owned by the author(s), who may assign such rights. Copyrights usually stand during the whole life of its author and survive 50 years after his death. Registration is not mandatory to own a copyright in a work in Canada.

Trade secret:
Privileged information (composition, recipe, client list, etc.) giving a company a commercial advantage over its competitors. As the commercial advantage resides solely on the secret, special measures should be undertaken before revealing the secret to an individual. The secret is jeopardized as soon as someone reveals a part or the whole of it.

CAPITALIZING THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ASSETS

Intellectual properties can be licensed, sold, transferred, and can serve as security interests for financial loans. They can be exchanged for money. Their value and financial benefits largely depend on how the company will commercialize them. Financial benefits resulting from the judicious commercialization of the company's intellectual property assets may be important. One only need to think on how Coca-Cola Ltd. is jealously preserving its trade-mark integrity, has protected the distinctive form of its bottle, and whose recipe is still a trade secret even after 100 years! The owner of the company has even asserted that everything in the company may be destroyed, as long as the trade-mark remains intact, the company may be rebuilt at any time.

Since registration of intellectual properties grants, in some cases, exclusivity in commercializing and ownership, registering the same constitutes a step that should be seriously considered before entering into business and commercial partnerships. Since they are real, sometimes dramatically worthy assets, protecting and including same in the company's business strategies may be very worthy for the company.

This article was written for the Canadian Opportunites Magazine, October-November 2008

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1 Intellectual property professionals are registered trade-mark agents, registered patent agents or lawyers who have made intellectual property their main practice. Usually they are also registered trade-mark or patent agents.

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