There are four main steps in the process of applying for a patent in Canada. The process can be complicated, and usually takes two to three years to complete. You may wish to consider getting help from a lawyer with related experience, or from a registered patent agent. Errors can be fatal to a patent application.
Applications are made to the Patent Office at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. The Patent Office does not require that any standard application form be completed, but each application must adhere to a standard format. Each step in the process requires the payment of a fee. The amount of the fee depends on the status of the applicant. The fee varies, for example, depending on whether the applicant is an individual inventor or a small business.
The four steps to applying for a patent are:
- Filing the application;
- Requesting an examination;
- Prosecution of examination; and
- Granting of patent.
Filing the application
You are required to complete a petition that states your request for a patent. The completed petition form requires: the complete address for all inventors; the title of the invention; and the name of your patent agent.
The patent application itself submits information about your invention in three parts: the abstract; the specification; and drawings.
Think of the abstract as a summary. It is a short technical description of your invention. It also states how your invention is unique.
The specification consists of a clear and complete description of your invention and how it is useful. The specification will also include your claims. Claims are the specific parameters or limits of the patent you are seeking. The claims establish the boundaries around your invention, and define the territory that you wish to protect from encroachment by other inventors. Only “territory” captured by the claims will be protected by your patent. The claims need to be written broadly enough to provide as much protection as possible. However, the claims must not be so broad that they encroach on any other inventor’s territory or go beyond your invention. It is advisable to receive assistance from a registered patent agent to draft your claims.
The drawings submitted with an application must satisfy precise requirements relating to size, quality, and detail. The drawings should also show every part of your invention as defined in the claims very clearly.
The completed application is filed at the Patent Office at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Completed applications are assigned a number and filing date that will appear on a filing certificate. You or your representative should refer to that number and filing date in all correspondence relating to your application.
The patent office will accept incomplete applications, and will even assign a number and filing date to incomplete applications that meet certain minimum requirements. An incomplete application must be completed within a specified time. If it is not completed within that time, it will be deemed abandoned.
Requesting an examination
An applicant for a patent must request an examination within five years of filing the patent application. The request must be made in writing to the Patent Office
Prosecution of examination
Prosecution consists of a patent examiner reviewing your application. This step may take two to three years. There are several things that the Examiner will be looking for. The examiner will determine whether your invention is new and non-obvious. The examiner will look for any tangible thing that contradicts your claim of originality. This is called prior art, and might consist of a similar invention already in use.
You will receive a patent if the examiner raises no objections, or after any objections have been resolved. You should expect the examiner to identify objections to your application. If the examiner identifies objections, you will receive a letter explaining those objections. You may respond to those objections and try to resolve the examiner’s concerns. That cycle may be repeated several times. You may wish to have help from a patent agent during this process.
If you are unable to resolve the examiner’s objections, your application will be objected. You have the right to respond to that objection by filing an appeal to the Patent Appeal Board.
If the examiner allows your patent application, you or your agent will receive a Notice of Allowance. The patent itself will be issued within twelve weeks of your payment of the final fee.
The patent application processes and patent law issues are complicated and technical. Applicants should consider obtaining legal advice from a lawyer with experience in this unique area. Applicants should consider retaining the services of a registered patent agent. Those agents have received specialized training in patent-related issues. Your lawyer may be able to help you find a suitable agent.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office
A guide to patents