What is the difference between copyright, trademarks, patents, etc.

People occasionally confuse copyrights with patents, trademarks, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies. Like copyright, these others are rights granted for intellectual creativity and are forms of IP. However, there are important differences:

  • Copyright provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer’s performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
  • Patents cover new and useful inventions (product, composition, machine, process) or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
  • Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others.
  • Industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament, or any combination of these features applied to a finished article.
  • Integrated circuit topographies are the three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.

Copyright applies to all original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works provided the conditions set out in the Copyright Act have been met. Each of these general categories covers a wide range of creations, including:

  • literary works such as books, pamphlets, computer programs and other works consisting of text
  • dramatic works such as motion picture films, plays, screenplays and scripts
  • musical works such as compositions with or without words
  • artistic works such as paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and plans

Click here for more information

Life of a Copyright

With a few exceptions, copyright lasts for the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and for 50 years following the end of that calendar year.

Exceptions include:

  • Works of Crown copyright
  • Joint authorship
  • Unknown Author
  • Posthumous works never before published or performed

You may search the records of the Copyright Office for information such as copyright owners’ names and changes to ownership. You can also search the Copyrights Database, free of charge, for all Canadian copyrights registered as of October 1991.

You can search by author name, category, country of publication, owner/assignee name, registration number, title and year of publication.

Works Copyrighted Prior to 1991

Ccopyright registrations dating back to 1841, including copyrights registered prior to 1991 that are not accessible online, you can visit the Client Service Centre, where these records are stored.

Canadian Intellectual Property Office
Place du Portage I
50 Victoria Street, room C-114
Gatineau, QC  K1A 0C9