You probably have heard talk of patents regarding new technological or scientific inventions. But you may not have heard that they apply to architectural designs. While architectural design patents may not have the same prominence as other inventions, they exist.
An excellent example of a patented architectural work is the design of Apple's New York premises. Canada patent laws also apply to architectural designs. Unlike copyright which is an automatic right to the original creator of a product, an inventor must register their inventions to be considered legitimate inventors.
But, What Is a Patent?
According to the CIPO (Canadian Intellectual Property Office), a patent is a right of ownership to an invention issued by the government to an inventor after successful patent registration. After an inventor successfully patents their invention, they have a right to stop anyone from producing, selling, or using their invention.
A Patent runs for 20 years from the date of filling an application, meaning that any person can legally create copies of your invention. It is important to note that patents issued by CIPO are only applicable within Canada. If you need to have the same protections in other jurisdictions, you must apply in those jurisdictions.
What You Can Patent
Typically, you can patent every original invention as long as it is a first in the world, but it has to be useful, functional, and operative.
Also, it must pass the test of inventiveness. An inventive architectural design must not be obvious to an average construction industry professional.
You cannot patent features whose purpose is aesthetics only. Instead, these elements are protected through industrial design registration. Registration of Industrial designs are different from patents in that they run for ten years from the registration date or 15 years from the date the design owner applies for registration.
Why You Need to Patent Your Inventions
It can take years to come up with an invention. It would be a huge disservice to the inventor to have another person take the invention and profit from it without the inventor's consent.
Thankfully an inventor in Canada has over 20 years from the date they apply for a patent before any other person cannot create, sell or produce a similar product. The 20 years allow the inventor to have a head start on their invention, which can help guarantee that they reap the benefits of their invention before others can join in.
In the 20 years a patent is in effect, the Canadian government encourages the inventors to share information about their inventions to encourage further development.
Patent infringement occurs when another person uses your innovation without your consent in a country where you have registered your patent. If you believe that another person or entity has infringed on your patent, you could sue them for damages resulting from their actions. Patent infringement claims can get complicated, so you may want to work with a lawyer.
Protection Before and After Registration
After successfully acquiring a patent for your invention, you have a right to stop patent infringement from the registration date. Your right to sue is not limited to future infringements. You can also sue for infringements that occurred before you acquired the patent for your innovation as long as the infringement occurred in Canada and after the date you applied for the patent.
There is no law requiring patent holders to mark their patented items. However, it is illegal to mark an item as patented while it is not. Marking your patented items as such can be beneficial in that it would help prevent people from infringing on your patent to avoid needing to litigate.
Also, marking an item "patent applied" or "pending" is legal, which can also help warn people that you could sue them for infringement once the registration is through.