Legal Guide

A Guide to Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are legal rights given to creators of original works such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and scientific developments. These creations of the mind are then protected from being used by others without the creator’s permission.

It is important to establish rightful ownership of your creations as a business in order to prevent your work from being unlawfully used. There are four main types of IPRs which are outlined below. If you would like to learn more about the steps you need to take to secure the right protection for your original work or idea it is best to seek legal advice from an expert such as a Mississauga business lawyer.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets offer an essential form of protection for businesses in order to help them gain and maintain a competitive advantage. Trade secrets refer to confidential information such as formulas, recipes, strategies and proprietary systems that are not known outside of the business.

Some famous examples of trade secrets include Coca-Cola’s recipe for their fizzy drink, KFC’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, and the formula for WD-40. If acquired by a competitor or another company, a trade secret could harm your business. Trade secret protection will ensure that your work cannot be copied or stolen by others.

There are no formal registration requirements in order to benefit from trade secret protection and a trade secret can be protected for an unlimited amount of time.


According to the  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) a patent is a property right granted to an inventor where they are conferred “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” their invention for a period of 20 years.


A copyright is a type of IPR that protects original works of authorship such as artistic, literary, dramatic and musical works as well as computer software and architecture. These works must be a fixed, tangible form of expression with examples, like song lyrics written down on paper or an oil painting on canvas.

As with trade secrets, there is no formal procedure required to register a copyright. The intellectual property is automatic and comes into existence once you have created your work. As a general rule, copyright protection for works created after January 1, 1978, lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.


Trademarks offer legal protection for words, designs, phrases or symbols that make them easily identifiable and distinct from other goods and services. Some examples of trademarks include the Nike logo or ‘swoosh’ symbol or the McDonald’s golden arches.

Unlike patents and copyrights that have a time limit, trademark rights can potentially last indefinitely, however, they have to be renewed every 10 years.  Similar to a copyright, a trademark does not need to be registered but it can offer benefits to do so.

Understanding the four different types of IPR can help you when starting a new business and will ensure you have the legal protection you need to prevent your intellectual property from being unlawfully used by others.

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