The subject matters to which intellectual property rights can be attached are defined by acts of government (primarily) and the common law. Intellectual property can be acquired in relation to:
- “inventions” by the operation of the Patent Act;
- artistic, dramatic, musical or literary “works” by the operation of the Copyright Act;
- plant varieties, by operation of the Plant Breeders Rights Act;
- protection for aesthetic (non-useful) features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to useful articles is the subject of the Industrial Design Act;
- the design of the interconnections and/or elements of layered integrated circuit products are protected under the Integrated Circuits Topography Act; and
- marks and devices used to distinguish the wares or services of a person or business from those of others in the marketplace are protected under the Trade-marks Act.
Like other property rights, intellectual property rights can be enforced against anyone who does that which only the intellectual property holder is permitted to do, as provided by the pertinent statute.
It is important to recognize that intellectual property can be acquired only in relation to “expressed” or “manifest” products of the mind. Of surprise to some, there is simply no intellectual property available in relation to: ideas, mere information, data, knowledge, facts or know-how. Nevertheless, such assets can be valuable and there are legal means for protecting such subject matters, but not through a property regime. Protection of these subject matters can be acquired pursuant to laws that govern relations between persons. For example, to protect research results or other information or data, a person might disclose it to another in accordance with the terms of a contract that requires the recipient to not further disclose the information to another person. Such a contract is commonly called a confidential disclosure agreement, confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement.
Canadian law operates only in Canada, but other countries of the world have legislation that creates rights similar (but not identical) to those available in Canada. It is important to recognize this, because a person may want to acquire intellectual property rights in more than one country.
Intellectual property may be held by an individual, solely or jointly with one or more others, or by other “legal persons” such as corporations.
Like other property, intellectual property can be bought or sold, leased, and/or licensed. A license is just a form of permission; the intellectual property holder allows a licensee to do one or more of the things that, under the relevant intellectual property law, only the intellectual property holder may do. In commercial relations, there will usually be a payment(s) given for the receipt of a license. Such payments, depending upon how they are arranged, may be called royalties. However, often money is not exchanged if the purpose of the license is to enable a non-commercial entity, such as another university researcher, perhaps a collaborator. Another way to enable another to do those things that only the intellectual property holder may do is to assign the rights. An assignment is different from a license. Assignment of intellectual property rights involves giving them to another person; it is a transfer of ownership.
Some of the types of intellectual property that are frequently created or exploited at the University of Saskatchewan are described in further detail below, as are the pertinent policies and principles that the University recognizes as being critical to their formulation.