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Copyright for WMDD

Copyright is one branch of intellectual property, which encompasses all creations of the mind.

Copyright is often conflated with patents and trademarks, but there are important distinctions (detailed below). 


Copyright protects all original literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works. 

Copyright protection is automatic. A work is protected by copyright as soon as it is fixed in print or digital format. Examples:

  • Print - as soon as something is written down (i.e. lecture notes or a diary)
  • Photographs - as soon as the photograph is taken, on film or a memory card
  • Digital - as soon as the work is saved (i.e. on a computer hard drive) 

Creators also have the option to register their copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. This serves as proof of ownership if needed. 


Patents cover new and useful inventions (including products, compositions, machines, and processes), or any new and useful improvements to existing inventions.

Patents require registration and last for 20 years in Canada. They must be made public to enrich the shared body of technical knowledge, but only the patent owner can license or sell their invention. 

Patents only apply in the country of registration. In Canada, patents are registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Because patents are public, someone could legally make your product in France if you only register your patent in Canada.

Google provides a patent search tool


A trademark is a word, combination of words, or a symbol that distinguishes the goods and services of an individual or company.

Trademark emerged from ancient times when skilled craftsmen would put their mark on a product. Now, patents help consumers identify products and services in the marketplace (for example, Pepsi versus Coca Cola in the soft drink aisle at the grocery store). 

Trademarks require registration (in Canada, with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office) to be protected. The initial term of protection is 15 years, but registration can be renewed indefinitely. 

Industrial Design

Industrial design refers to the aesthetic (visually appealing), non-functional aspect of a product. Design is closely tied to marketability and, in turn, the commercial value of a product. See the Apple vs. Samsung case study for an example. 

Industrial designs require registration (in Canada, with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office) to qualify for protection. Registration provides you with an exclusive right to your design for 10 years. 

Industrial Design Case Study: Apple vs. Samsung

After a long legal battle, Samsung was ordered to pay Apple over $539 million in damages for infringing design patents, including the distinctive rounded corners on the iPhone.