Industrial design, plant breeders’ rights, and integrated circuit topographies as intellectual property

Intellectual property is usually protected by patents, trademarks or copyright. However, less common forms of protection also exist, including:

  • Industrial design
  • Integrated circuits topographies
  • Plant breeders’ rights

Protecting industrial design as intellectual property

Protection of industrial design may be important if you are manufacturing a physical product. An industrial design is the shape, arrangement, pattern or ornament of a finished object. The finished object can be made by hand, machine or tool.

Industrial designs are registered with the Industrial Design Office of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), and have a renewable five-year term. To be eligible for registration with the Industrial Design Office, the design must be original and have visually appealing features.

Industrial design can also be used be protect the packaging of a product, which can be a useful strategy to deter look-alike products.

Sometimes an industrial design is first created as a work of art. In this case, its ownership is protected under the Copyright Act even if it is not registered. However, to protect the design under the Industrial Design Act it must be registered.

Plant breeders’ rights

New varieties of plant species can be protected under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act. To be protected, the plant variety must be:

  • New
  • Not previously sold
  • Different from all other plant varieties

In addition, all plants in the variety must be the same and each generation must be the same.

Obtaining plants breeders’ rights

Registration is required to receive plant breeders’ rights to a plant variety. If a claim for a new variety is granted, it gives the owner the exclusive right to control the multiplication and sale of the seed for up to 18 years.

Other people can still breed or save and grow the registered variety for their own private use without permission.

The Plant Breeders’ Rights Office, which is part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, administers plant breeders’ rights.

Integrated circuit topographies

Integrated circuit, or “microchip,” products can be protected under the Integrated Circuit Topography Act. The Act protects the three-dimensional arrangement of the semiconductors, metals, insulators and other materials that comprise the microchip. The Act only protects original topographies, not reproductions of existing topographies.

Owners must register in order to protect their product. Protection lasts for up to 10 years, depending on when the product is first commercialized.

In addition to the protection available for integrated circuit topographies, the sets of instructions stored on the integrated circuit may be protected by the Copyright Act. Some aspects of integrated circuit topographies might also be patentable.


Canadian Intellectual Property Office. (2009, December 9.) Retrieved December 9, 2009 from
Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (2009, December 9.) Retrieved December 9, 2009 from