Provides advice on IPR protection, including information on the registration of patents and trademarks.
Last Published: 8/14/2017
Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (IP) rights in Canada. It is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. IP may be protected differently in Canada and in the United States, and the scope of protection may be different. Rights must be registered and enforced in Canada under local laws. For example, your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Canada. There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a country depends on the national laws of that country.

Granting patent registrations is generally based on first-to-file or first-to-invent, depending on the country. Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file or first-to-use, depending on the country, so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Canadian market. It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Canada. It is the responsibility of the rights holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Canadian law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request. For more information, please see the U.S. Commercial Service Canada’s “Office Locations” webpage.

Although the U.S. government stands ready to assist, there is little the government can do if the rights holders have not taken the fundamental steps necessary to secure and enforce their IP rights in a timely fashion.  Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights in a mistaken belief that the U.S. government can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a lawsuit. In no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder promptly to pursue its case.

It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Work with legal counsel familiar with Canadian laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.

Small and medium-size companies should understand the importance of working with trade associations and organizations to support IP protection and stop counterfeiting. There are several organizations based in Canada and the United States, including:
Canada remains on the USTR’s Special 301 Watch List for IPR protections and enforcement. The new Combatting Counterfeit Products Act does not apply to pirated and counterfeit goods in customs transit control or customs transshipment control in Canada. With respect to pharmaceuticals, the United States continues to have serious concerns about the availability of rights of appeal in Canada’s administrative process for reviewing regulatory approval of pharmaceutical products, and about the lack of clarity and the impact of the heightened utility requirements for patents that Canadian courts have recently applied.

IP Resources
A wealth of information on protecting IP is freely available to U.S. rights holders.  Some excellent resources for companies regarding intellectual property include the following:
  • For information about patent, trademark, or copyright issues -- including enforcement issues in the US and other countries -- call the STOP! Hotline: 1-866-999-HALT or visit's website
  • For more information about registering for copyright protection in the United States, contact the U.S. Copyright Office at 1-202-707-5959.
  • For information on obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights and market-specific IP Toolkits visit’s IPR toolkits webpage. The toolkits contain detailed information on protecting and enforcing IP in specific markets and contain contact information for local IPR offices abroad and U.S. government officials available to assist SMEs.
In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective management of their intellectual property. For background on these principles, please link to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s articles on Protecting Intellectual Property and also Corruption.

Contact Information
Jennifer Carton
International Trade Specialist
Phone:  202-482-0352

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

Canada Trade Development and Promotion Intellectual Property