Canadian Lawyer

February 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 31 of 35

30 LEGAL REPORT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY wins or to keep scarce financial resources for "keeping the lights on." Christine Hicks, a lawyer at Hicks Intellectual Property Law in Canmore, Alta., says that, while education is an important part of a national IP strategy, she wonders if it would be more valuable for business owners to get that knowledge and advice from professional advisers. "In my experience, most SMEs don't look to a government website for that type of information," she says. "What they really are looking for are getting answers quickly to questions that relate to their own business." Hicks adds that one thing she does like about the IP awareness side of the govern- ment's IP strategy "is the emphasis that every business have one. "It may be very straightforward. It may be very involved and require a lot of planning and strategizing. But every business needs one, because every business has some form of IP strategy." intellectual property," she says. "But it's an ongoing project." On the patent collective idea, Lovrics' colleague Jonathan Pollack, a partner at Marks & Clerk, says the concept of a "central- ized service to provide support to SMEs" is an important one, although "not a lot of details are out yet." But it is expected that the collec- tive will run as a four-year pilot program and will receive $30 million to assist SMEs in the "data-driven" clean technology sector with their IP-related needs. The patent collective will be the first dedi- cated IP program to help Canadian companies better understand, generate, commercialize and protect their IP, and it will be run by the Innovation Asset Collective, a non-profit orga- nization co-founded by IP lawyer Jim Hinton. Pollack notes that, even for those who know the benefits of protecting IP, it is often a "trade-off " for a startup when it comes to making the decision to engage the IP patent process early on, knowing that "first to file" "There's no shortage of innovation out there, but IP awareness is not always the first thing that comes to mind." Stephen Beney, Bereskin & Parr LLP Gravelle, who is vice president of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, says that, while there generally has been more government support on financing innovative companies in their research and development or commercialization, there is no separate "purse" for supporting IP directly. So, while any government financing theoretically can offset costs so that other money can be used by a company for IP, Gravelle says data show that governments that support IP directly have more successful outcomes. He points to the "first patent" program that the Quebec government offered a few years back to help Quebec-based companies finan- cially with the patent application process — subsidizing half of expenses up to $25,000. "It was an extremely successful program," he says, noting that the money set aside for it was allocated within a few months of the program being announced. When then Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains announced the federal government's IP strategy in 2018, it focused on three key programs: the Patent Collective Pilot Program, which aims to help innovative SMEs better leverage IP in large- scale growth efforts; ExploreIP, a tool to enable innovators to discover the intellectual property held by public sector institutions; and an Intellectual Property Legal Clinics Program, which allows innovators to access free or low-cost legal IP services and better understand, protect and market their IP. Catherine Lovrics, a partner at Marks & Clerk Canada and head of the firm's copyright and digital groups, says that, through these programs, "it's fairly clear that the Canadian government is committed to ensuring that [the] Canadian economy remains innovative and competitive." And that applies not just at the large Canadian multinational level but at all levels, she says, "from your basic startup straight through to the large entities." Awareness of the importance of IP is growing among SMEs, Lovrics says, but "it is still a challenge" in many ways. "There are some programs that are out there to try and get people involved and try to spread the word as to what is available in terms of CRAFTING A NATIONAL IP STRATEGY The Patent Collective Pilot aims to help innovative SMEs better leverage IP in their large-scale growth efforts and provide the government with advice to better support SMEs. About $30 million will be invested in the Patent Collective over a four-year period. ExploreIP is a tool to enable companies, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators to discover the intellectual property held by public sector institutions and to benefit from research and innovative discoveries. It will offer a navigation interface that lets users browse documents from various fields, many of which are available for licensing. Intellectual Property Legal Clinics Program promotes the creation of IP clinics in law schools to allow innovators to access free or low-cost legal IP services and better understand, protect and market their IP. The University of Ottawa, University of Windsor, York University and Université de Montréal have been selected to receive grants for the IP legal clinics.

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