Canadian Lawyer

February 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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28 www.canadianlawyermag.com LEGAL REPORT JIM BALSILLIE, retired chairman and co-CEO of Blackberry, had some sobering words on intellectual property in Canada at a recent webinar called Canada's Innovation Imperative. For years, he said, Canada has "ignored the rise of the knowledge-based economy," and despite repeated calls from the domestic tech industry, we still have no fully developed national strategy for intellectual property and innovation. There is an "existential" need for Canada to develop a new plan related to innovation, Balsillie said, adding that Canada fell to 22nd place in the 2020 edition of the Bloomberg Innovation Index, behind Slovenia. For those who listened in to the webinar, held in early November and hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, these comments from Balsillie, chairman of the Council of Canadian Innovators, were another familiar plea for the federal government to take IP more seriously in building a new Canadian economy built on "intangible" assets. "Data show that Canada missed the shift from the tangible to the intangible economy by not placing value on generating valuable IP assets," Balsillie said, "because you can't commercialize what you don't own." However, the Canadian government, perhaps taking its cue from business inno- INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Securing Canada's innovation through intellectual property The Canadian government has rolled out a national IP strategy, but legal experts in the area wonder if it goes far enough vators such as Balsillie, has lately recognized the need for a national IP strategy, and it has put together an ambitious plan to encourage innovative businesses to invest in IP. The federal initiative for a national IP strategy, launched with much fanfare in 2018, includes putting more than $85 million over five years toward updating laws, creating tools for business owners, (especially small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs) and launching a patent collective. There will also be at least a $10-million ongoing commit- ment to the program. While IP lawyers say that this is a great start and are heartened by the recognition of the importance of IP, the proof as to whether it works will, as they say, be in the pudding. "Overall, the government is going in the right direction in developing an IP strategy, especially on the education side of things when it comes to stressing the importance of IP with SMEs," says Jennifer Marles, a partner at Oyen Wiggs Green & Mutala LLP in Vancouver. "Where the rubber hits the road is the amount of money available to help compa- nies do what's needed to secure their IP," she says, suggesting that money is often one of the issues that startups have in taking care of that part of the business. It's a healthy sign that the Canadian government has recognized that IP is so central to economic growth, says Matthew Zischka, managing partner at Smart & Biggar LLP in Toronto. But as for the substance of the policy Ottawa has laid out, he says he is "not sure it goes far enough." And while the IP strategy has set forth some important educa- tion pillars, he points out that it "hasn't yet provided the financial incentives that could be provided to Canadian businesses to further pursue and protect IP rights." "Where the rubber hits the road is the amount of money available to help companies do what's needed to secure their IP." Jennifer Marles, Oyen Wiggs Green & Mutala LLP

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