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Intellectual Property

Updated for 2010 Changes to the Professional Engineers Act

These web pages have been updated to include both enacted and pending changes due to the Open for Business Act, 2010. Note that some changes will not be in force until proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor; for example, the putting into force the end of the industrial exemption has been delayed numerous times.


All information on this website is provided without any warranty to its correctness. The material on these pages reflects Douglas Wilhelm Harder's best judgment in light of the information available to him at the time of its preparation. Any use which a third party makes of these pages, on any reliance on or decision to be made based on it, are the responsibility of such third parties. Douglas W. Harder accepts no responsibility for damages, if any, suffered by any third party as a result of decisions made or actions based on these pages.

A set of PowerPoint slides are available at Intellectual_property.pptx, but the reader is advised that the discussion related to the presentation is just as important as the slides themselves.

There are five forms of intellectual property:

  1. patents of invention
  2. trade marks
  3. copyright
  4. industrial design
  5. trade secrets

The first four deal with public intellectual property and are regulated through through the appropriate federal statutes:

  1. Patent Act (1985)
  2. Trade-marks Act (1985)
  3. Copyright Act (1985)
  4. Industrial Design Act (1985)

The last, trade secrets, describes private and confidential intellectual property which is therefore not regulated through statute but rather through common law. Trade secrets are also emphasized in the Code of Ethics:

77.3 A practitioner...shall regard as confidential information to the business affairs, technical methods or processes of an employer...

Summary of Public Intellectual Property

Chapter 33 of Marston provides excellent description of the four categories of public intellectual property. Table 1 summarizes some of the information found in that chapter.

Class Description from the Statute Term Assignment and Licencing
Patents of Invention "any new and useful art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement in any art, process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter." (source) 20 years assignable with registration
Trade-marks "a mark that is used by a person for the purpose of distinguishing or so as to distinguish wares or services manufactured, sold, leased, hired or performed by him from those manufactured, sold, leased, hired or performed by others, a certification mark, a distinguishing guise, ..." (source) 15 years with unlimited 15-year renewals licensable
Copyright "the rights...of a work, a performer's performance, a sound recording, or a communication signal" (source) 50 years after the death of the author assignable in writing
Industrial Design "features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament and any combination of those features that, in a finished article, appeal to and are judged solely by the eye" (source) 10 years assignable in writing

Engineering Plans and Copyright

On p.289, Marston discusses how plans in an engineer-employer relationship generally belong to the employer while in an engineer-client relationship belong to the engineer unless otherwise specified in the contract.

Summary of Trade Secrets

This was described by Lord Denning in 1967 in the case Seager v. Copydex Ltd. as:

A trade secret may consist of any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one's business, and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. It may be a formula for a chemical compound, a process of manufacturing, treating or preserving materials, a pattern for a machine or other device, or a list of customers.

As indicated above, trade secrets are currently protected by common law and engineers working as employees have an ethical responsibility to regard as confidential such trade secrets.