The Canadian Patent Office

On April 16, 2012, in Uncategorized, by miltons ip

The home page for the Canadian patent office may be accessed here.

You can search the Canadian patent database online for free here.

The home page for the US patent office is here.

You can search the US patent database online for free here.

The Canadian patent office is a part of the special operating agency associated with Industry Canada (a department of the federal government) known as the “Canadian Intellectual Property Office”.

In common parlance the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is referred to the acronym CIPO, which is pronounced “cee-po”.

CIPO is responsible for the administration and processing of most patent, industrial design (‘design patent’), trademark and copyright registratations in Canada.

In accordance with the Canadian Patent Act, the most senior executive in charge of the Canadian patent office is the “Commissioner of Patents”.   (Currently, the same individual is also the “Registrar of Trade-marks”.)  Decisions made by the ‘Canadian patent office’ are formally decisions of the Commissioner.    Neither CIPO nor the Commissioner of Patents plays any role in patent litigation between private parties, which is often, but not exclusively, conducted in the Federal Court (as distinguished from the Provincial Courts, which have exclusive jurisdiction over disputes between private parties.  The Commissioner may be named as a party in proceedings brought to review a decision of the Commissioner (formally known as ‘judicial review’).

You may find the tools provided by CIPO for searching the Canadian patent database somewhat difficult to use.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask us for help.  In fairness, however, searches of the Canadian patent office are relatively rare, in so far as it is an unlikely place to look for ‘prior art’ – while Canadian patentability rules are roughly similar to American rules, because approximately 10 times as many patent applications are filed in the United States as are filed in Canada there is no reason to look in Canada first for patentability.  Accordingly, the most common reason for searching the Canadian patent database is to see if a patentee who owns a US patent secured a corresponding patent in Canada – if they did not, then likely the subject matter is not patented and not patentable in Canada and thus is in the common domain and available for exploitation by all in Canada.  Put another way, determining ‘freedom to operate’ is a very different matter in Canada from the United States, and much more likely to occur.  If a US patent blocks your path, do not dispair: there may be no equivalent block in Canada.

Of course, another common reason for searching the database of Canadian patents is to update the status of a pending application, including determining the date of the application, if it is in good standing or has lapsed for failure to pay fees, whether examination has commenced, and who the patent agent of record is.

All applicants for a patent in Canada must appoint a Canadian representative for service who is usually a Canadian patent agent.

The patent office in the United States is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  It is only possible to search for published patent applications, and because patents are published at “month 18″ after filing, it is by definition not possible to search for provisional US patent applications.  Put another way, it is not possible through searching to determine what provisional patent applications have been filed.  This illustrates one of the fundamental limitations on searching patent databases – it is simply not possible to know what has been filed, only what has been published and the two are quite different both in scope and in legal effect.


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