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Under Canadian Law an invention is any new and useful art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement in any art, process, machine, manufacture or composition. Examples of suitable subject matter for patents include pharmaceutical products, articles of manufacture, machines, industrial processes and some types of software. For a patent to issue, the invention must be novel (ie not have been made public anywhere in the world prior to the filing of a patent application) and the applicant must be the first person to apply for the invention. If more than one application for a patent is pending in the patent office at the same time, the patent will be granted to the application with the earlier filing date. Accordingly, it is important to file a patent application at the earliest opportunity after an invention is conceived.

Applications are filed in the Canadian patent office where they are examined after payment of an examination fee. It typically takes 2 to 3 years to complete the patent examination process and for a patent to issue. It is recommended that inventors use the services of a patent agent to prepare and file their application since the language used in the application can be critical to the scope of protection the granted patent provides to the inventor.

The owner of a patent is granted the exclusive right in Canada to make, sell or use the invention. The term of patent protection is 20 years from the filing date of the application (for patents filed after 1989 - for patents filed before that date the term is 17 years from the date the patent issues).

Actions to enforce patent rights may be brought in the provincial courts or in the Federal Court which has jurisdiction throughout Canada.

Canada is a member of the Paris convention which provides that patents may be filed in a country which is a signatory to the convention (including most industrialized countries) at any time up to 1 year from the date of the first filing in a convention country.

Canada is also a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty which simplifies and reduces the costs of filing patents in multiple countries.

James Nenniger is a founding partner of the firm of Piasetzki Nenniger Kvas LLP, Barristers & Solicitors, Patent and Trademark Agents, a firm that restricts its practice to patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs and related causes. Piasetzki Nenniger Kvas LLP is located in Toronto, Canada.