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A Question of Copyright

Expert: Rob McDonald

L. Thompson asked:

Where would I start with copyrighting/producing a fantastic new product? Do I copyright first of all? How do I find a trademark agent in Alberta, and would that be the very first thing to do, or patent the product first? Where would I find more info?

Rob McDonald answered:

Your question touches on several different types of intellectual property, all of which are dealt with differently under the law.

Copyright arises automatically whenever a person creates an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. There is no need to register copyright, although you may do so at a nominal cost. Copyright gives you the exclusive right to do a number of things, including reproduce a work. Copyright does not protect ideas (i.e. the idea for a play), only the expression of those ideas (i.e. a script).

Trademarks are words, phrases or symbols that are used to identify a product or service and distinguish them from the products or services of others. They may be registered or unregistered, but registration provides the greatest level of protection (exclusive use of the trademark throughout Canada). You would use a trademark to protect the name of your business or product.

A patent must be registered, and gives the owner the exclusive right to make, use or sell a particular invention that is novel and useful.

For more information about these and other intellectual property rights, go the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website at There, you can find out about the basics of these rights, as well as access a list of registered trademark and patent agents. The national law firm of Miller Thomson has a diverse intellectual property law group, including trademark and patent agents, and would be pleased to assist you in the protection and enforcement of your rights.

About the author

Rob McDonald, a lawyer with Miller Thomson, Barristers and Solicitors, practices primarily in the areas of civil and commercial litigation, with a focus on intellectual property matters, particularly copyright, trade-mark, patent and confidential information issues.

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