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Intellectual Property (IP) is any form of knowledge or expression created with one's intellect, and includes such works as: inventions, literary, artistic, musical, visual works, computer software, trademarks, "know-how" In a more general sense, "intellectual property" refers to the intangible aspects of certain types of property, which can include both physical (tangible) and intangible elements. These elements can each possess economic value independent of the other, and can both be sold/assigned/transferred either separately or as a whole. IP may exist in many forms, including artistic and literary works, inventions and discoveries, processes, knowledge, pharmaceuticals, data sets, data bases, audio visual and computer material, electronic circuitry, biotechnology products and products of genetic engineering, computer software, circuit board schematics, and any other item, knowledge, thought, or product of research.
Intellectual property is normally thought of as property which can be protected by patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright, and trade secrets. Recent advances in fields of biotechnology, software design and computing has led to protection of intellectual property under new statues such as the Integrated Circuit Topographies Act and the Plant Breeders' Rights Act/Plant Protection Act. There are five basic legal methods by which intellectual property is protected.
Patents give researchers the right to exclude others from making, using or selling their invention from the day the patent is granted to a maximum of 20 years after the day on which the patent application was filed. Profits to the researcher can be realized by selling the patent, licensing it or using it as an asset to negotiate funding. According to the Patent Act, a patentable invention is any new and useful art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter. As well, a patentable invention could also be any new and useful improvement in any art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter. Things that may be eligible for a patent include processes, methods, machines, manufactures, compositions and improvements developed by the researcher, including computer software.
To be patentable, the invention must demonstrate;
Utility: The patent statute specifies that an invention must be useful, that it must be good for some applied purpose.
Novelty: The patent must be new, i.e., the exact same thing must not have existed or been done before.
Non-Obviousness: Even if novel, the invention must also be different enough from past technology that the average worker in the field ("skilled in the art") would not have come up with the new invention from what was already known.
If the invention does not meet this test, it is rejected as obvious.
A trade-mark is a word, a symbol, a design (or a combination of these features), used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace.
The Industrial Design Act (IDA) works to protect owners while promoting the orderly exchange of information. The Act defines "industrial design" as "features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament and any combination of those features that, in a finished article, appeal to and are judged solely by the eye", for example, shapes of chairs, pattern of fabric, or ornamentation on picture frames. The article must be made or able to be made by an industrial process. Registration of an industrial design under the IDA gives the proprietor of the design the exclusive right to the design for a period of ten (10) years.
Integrated Circuit Topographies
Integrated Circuit Topographies refer to the three-dimensional configuration of the electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs. Integrated circuit (IC) topographies protect the surface configuration of the electronic circuits used in microchips and semiconductor chips. The IC design must be unique in order to register.
Copyrights provide protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs), and three other subject-matter known as: performance, sound recording and communication signals, and prevent others from copying or modifying a work that you have created.
A trade secret is normally a process or formulation, details of which are kept secret from competitors.
Helpful Links and Documentation
- StFX Student Intellectual Property Guidelines
- A Guide to Protecting Intellectual Property [Canadian University Intellectual Property Group (CUIPG)]
Canadian Intellectual Property Office (copyright, patents, trade-marks, industrial design, and integrated circuit topography)
- US Patent and Trademark Office