Protecting Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) consists of intangible assets associated with saleable products and includes design, branding, innovation and knowledge.

The protection of IP is an increasingly vital factor in the global economy. Globally, IP applications have grown nearly 70% in ten years, to over 11 million in 2014. Canadian businesses continue to expand into international markets, making the protection of IP in those markets highly important. IP rights have also become a key component of international trade deals. International trade is a major part of Canada’s economy, with individuals and businesses from over 120 countries around the world filing for IP rights in Canada in 2015. 1


The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) handles the administration of trademarks, patents, copyright and industrial design. CIPO is the best starting point for national information and assistance in IP matters.

This month CIPO released “IP Canada Report 2016” (also available as a 34 pp., 2.7 MB pdf download). The report discusses trends in the use of IP, both domestically and by Canadian innovators and businesses abroad. It relies both on CIPO’s own internal data and on data from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which collects global data.

In 2015, CIPO received applications for:

  • 36,964 patents (4% growth from 2014) and registered 22,201 patents,
  • 52,461 trademarks (3% growth) and registered 31,507 trademarks, and
  • 5,846 industrial designs (1% growth) and registered 5,728 industrial designs

Of course in the youtube age, national patents and trademarks offer limited protection. Canadian businesses must invest in IP rights in other countries in order to protect their inventions, brands, and product designs. In fact growth in Canadian IP activity abroad has outpaced domestic filings by Canadians. The obverse is that the top 5 non-resident filers represent 68% of total patent applications in Canada in 2015. The U.S. is by far the largest filer, followed by Canada (12%), Germany, Japan, France and Switzerland.


The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for IP services, policy, information and cooperation. It was established in 1967 as a self-funding agency of the United Nations. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it currently has 189 member states.

WIPO provides free access to its IP and technology databases:


    Search the technology contained in more than million patent documents, including international patent applications submitted under the PCT.

  • Global Brand Database

    Search brand information from multiple national and international sources, including trademarks, appellations of origin and official emblems.


    Search detailed information, updated daily, on all international marks recorded under the Madrid system, which are currently in force or have expired within the past six months.

  • Global Design Database

    Search industrial design registrations from the Hague System plus participating national collections.

  • Hague Express

    Access details of industrial designs registered under the Hague System.

  • Lisbon Express

    Search appellations of origin registered under the Lisbon system.

  • Article 6ter

    Search for the State emblems, and names, abbreviations and other emblems of IGOs, which have been communicated for protection under Article 6ter.

  • WIPO Pearl

    A multilingual terminology database to find accurate IP and technological terms and concepts in 10 languages, validated by WIPO’s terminology experts.

  • Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI)
  • Access to Specialized Patent Information (ASPI)

IP classifications and standards:

  • International classifications

    Four international classification systems facilitate and simplify IP searches. These classification systems organize a huge amount of information concerning inventions, trademarks, and industrial designs into indexed, manageable structures for easy retrieval:

    • International Patent Classification (IPC)
    • Nice Classification (for marks)
    • Vienna Classification (for figurative elements of marks)
    • Locarno Classification (for industrial design)
  • WIPO Standards: The WIPO Standards for IP offices help streamline data processing procedures for filing, examining, publishing, granting and registering patents, trademarks and industrial designs. Common standards also assist the technical exchange of IP data between offices and WIPO, and facilitate the international dissemination of and access to IP information.

Other WIPO Resources:

  • IP statistics, including reports on IP filing activity worldwide.
  • Official documents from WIPO meetings and Assemblies, as well as presentations from WIPO events.
  • WIPO publications – browse and download for free online.
  • Country profiles, including IP profiles of member states, with statistics, legal information, case studies, photos and WIPO cooperation activities.
  • Case studies – IP Advantage
  • WIPO Library of over 35,000 references to support IP research

Protecting Your Business’s IP

Safeguarding your IP assets is neither simple nor cheap. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) this week offers a starting point with the endorsement and release of an APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) document, ”
Best Practices in Trade secret Protection and Enforcement Against Misappropriation” (3pp., 47 KB pdf) The 8 “best practices” are really guiding principles for international agreement and cooperation, but may serve also as useful query points for exporters considering new markets.

The USTR also has available “Administration Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets” (141pp., 6.8 MB pdf). In addition to American trade strategy it contains illustrative case examples and outlines the legal framework.

1IP Canada Report 2016