Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


Patents and Legal Resources


Patents Explained

A patent is the granting of the exclusive rights to the inventor to make, use, or sell an invention for up to 20 years. A patent application must be filed for the country in which the inventor wishes to protect their invention, meaning a patent given in Canada will not apply to other countries unless those rights are applied for separately. 

The inventor who holds the pattern may also sell or license the patent to another organization.

Criteria for a patent

  1. Novelty - the invention must be the first of its kind in the world.
  2. Utility - the invention must have a useful function.
  3. Inventiveness - the invention must be a new development or improvement of an existing technology that would not have been obvious to others working in that field.

Types of Patents

  • Utility - includes patents for product, process, or machines, these are the most common type.
  • Design - includes patents for the design, configuration, or visual aspects of the product.
  • Plant - includes patents for the plant's unique characteristics that can be natural, bred, or somatic.

Patent Families

A patent family is a grouping of applications that cover the same technical content, each granting agency may have different categorizations of patent families. You will need to review the patent family definitions in each database.

When to apply for a patent?

When starting your business, it can be difficult to decide when to apply for a patent. It is always wise to file an application sooner rather than later in case you are scooped by someone else! Please consult a patent lawyer if you are considering this route. You will also need to conduct a patent search if you haven't already. The tools on this page can help you with the process and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out.

For more information visit the Government of Canada's guide to patents.

Patent Databases


A trademark is a sign or combination of signs used or proposed to be used by a person to distinguish their goods or services from those of others.

  • Ordinary trademark: includes words, designs, tastes, textures, moving images, mode of packaging, holograms, sounds, scents, three-dimensional shapes, colours, or a combination.
  • Certification trademark: proof that goods or services meet a defined standard, can be licensed to companies for use on products or services.

For more information visit the Government of Canada Guide on Trademarks.

Trademark Searching

Remember to consult the Canadian Trademarks Database before you get too far into your start-up process. Be sure to also check business registries and chamber of commerce to make sure your venture name isn't already taken.

You can also use trademark searches to populate a list of competitors by changing the search field to "Goods and Services" and keyword searching for various products.

Legal Resources on Campus

McGill LibraryQuestions? Ask us!
Privacy notice