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Ask a Vexxpert Podcast Episode 19: How to monetize and protect your intellectual property

4 min. readbyVexxit StaffonOctober 15, 2021
What do the Coca-Cola logo and The Beatles classic, Let it Be, have in common? They’re both pieces of intellectual property, or IP. You don’t have to have an internationally known brand or music group to own IP. Chances are, you already do. On today’s episode, lawyer Silvia de Sousa fills us in on what IP is, how and why to protect it, and how to save — and make — money while you’re at it.

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Silvia de Sousa practices in business law, with a focus on intellectual property, technology, and cannabis advertising and marketing. A partner at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman (TDS) LLP in Winnipeg, Silvia is straightforward in her approach to managing IP matters.

“We don’t have unlimited time and we don’t have unlimited money so you do have to be smart about, what is the IP that I have? Is it valuable?” she says. “If yes, then let’s protect it.”

Here’s a quick list of the intellectual property you may have:

  • Slogan or logo;

  • Inventions, products, compositions, processes;

  • Trade secrets, such as a customer list that gives you a competitive advantage;

  • Technology, such as software code; or

  • Domain names and social media handles.

It can be overwhelming to think about.

The best approach is to break it down. Silvia suggests creating a table with three columns: the first column listing your IP, the second noting whether it’s valuable to you (as in, what would it mean to you or your business if someone stole it?) and the third noting, if it’s valuable—do you want to protect it?

You’ll also have to consider where you want to protect your IP. There’s no such thing as an international trademark, so if you’re mainly doing business in Canada and the United States, that might be where you start.

Trademarks

Trademarks work well for slogans, logos, domain names, social media handles—words or phrases you want to associate with your business.

Patents

Patents are a little different in that you can’t just file if and when you feel you need to. If you choose to disclose your idea to another person, without having them sign a confidentiality agreement, you may be out of luck when it comes to getting patent protection. Thankfully, Canada, the U.S. and Australia offer a one-year grace period where you can apply after sharing your idea.

Patents are best for inventions, products, compositions and processes. Copyright

It’s easy to apply for copyright protection through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), which you can do without the help of a lawyer. Copyrights are ideal for software code or other tangible work you want to claim as your own.

With the lowdown on how to manage your IP in your back pocket, Silvia offers her top tips for getting it right from the start.

Tip #1:

Lock down your social media and domain names before you go public. You don’t want to face a fight for your desired names after the fact or deal with the branding headaches you might encounter as a result.

Tip #2:

Get your ownership details sorted out. There’s nothing worse than to find out you don’t actually have ownership rights to (what you thought was your) intellectual property. Set out an employment agreement for your key employees and set a services agreement for contractors that covers your rights to IP, and your company’s behind.

Tip #3:

Have your NDA ready to go—and use it. Your lawyer can create a template so you don’t risk losing your chance at a patent.

Tip #4:

Tap into resources that can help you cover the cost of IP protection or research and development (R&D). The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) is one, and the CanExport program is another. The Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (SR&ED) can provide financial relief, too.

There are lots of benefits to protecting your intellectual property, namely solidifying your rights to it should someone infringe on it—but monetary gain is a bonus. Whether you choose to sell your company, sign on to a licensing agreement that provides you royalties, or co-develop with another business owner, you’ll need to have your proverbial IP ducks in order.

Reach out to a lawyer who’s in the know about IP issues, like Silvia de Sousa, and listen in on our latest podcast to go deep on IP. You can connect with Silvia at TDS LLP or on LinkedIn, and find her podcast episode here.

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