Less than two weeks after British Columbia announced a program to protect its intellectual property (IP), the east coast has announced a similar move.
Springboard Atlantic, a network of Atlantic Canadian Universities and colleges, said its new program will help startups protect their ideas and innovations with IP.
“We tend to lag behind other jurisdictions around our commercialization activity.”
“We tend to lag behind other jurisdictions around our commercialization activity,” Daryl Genge, CEO of Springboard Atlantic, said in a statement. “Developing IP strategy is one of the biggest challenges faced by Canadian companies.”
Springboard Atlantic connects industry with researchers to encourage commercialization of research.
Springboard’s Atlantic IP Advantage will assist startups in Atlantic Canada develop a robust IP strategy and implement it, while raising awareness of IP in the region. Startups can apply for funding of up to $50,000 and have up to 90 percent of costs covered to develop an IP strategy.
There is an additional $25,000 available to execute the strategy, also with 90 percent covered by Springboard’s program. Startups must be working with business incubators or accelerators to be eligible for funding. There is also a requirement to take IP training before applying.
Atlantic IP Advantage is one of five regional programs to execute IP training and funding across Canada using federal funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).
Springboard Atlantic said in a statement that businesses need to protect their intellectual property, just as they would protect their physical assets such as buildings and equipment.
Patents, copyrights, trademarks, registered industrial designs, plant breeders’ rights, and trade secrets can give entrepreneurs a path to growth and an important advantage over their global competitors.
Jim Balsillie, Blackberry’s co-founder, previously warned about Canada’s mismanagement of IP as far back as 2014, citing that Canada’s innovation issues have nothing to do with the character of our entrepreneurs, but rather because the country is poor at managing IP. He particularly cited the complete lack of both corporate and university-based training on IP law at that time.
Flash-forward to the present, and not much appears to have changed. Many stakeholders from the IP sector believe that most Canadian startups are not deriving enough value from their IP, which has put Canada behind its peers in the global race for IP rights.
Canada was ranked the 14th country globally in 2019 by number of IP rights filed, and according to a Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) survey from the same year, only two percent of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) said they owned a patent. What’s more, the trove of IP that is created in Canada often gets scooped up by foreign giants with deep pockets.
Atlanc IP Advantage Director Niraj Shukla said this new program will give Atlantic Canadian startups a competitive advantage in the national and international marketplace.
“If they understand how IP works and how it can be used to position their company in the market, they can decide how to focus their time and invest their dollars in the business,” Shukla said.
Practically speaking, the way the program works is that business accepted into the Atlantic IP Advantage program will be guided by a team of IP experts at Springboard. They will work with startups, accelerators, and incubators to raise awareness, provide education, and connect startups to IP experts.
Once a company has completed the mandatory training requirement with its startup incubator partner, its leadership can apply for the funding to hire lawyers and consultants to help it develop and implement an IP strategy. Those include internal controls to protect IP from suppliers, as well as more obvious steps, like filing patents.
IP lawyers and experts are invited to run initial workshops, provide training and professional services. They will be paid directly by the Springboard program.
Springboard Atlantic is the delivery partner for the federal Elevate IP initiative, which was created as part of Canada’s National Intellectual Property Strategy. In 2021 the federal government invested $90 million
over four years to help innovative startups and technology-intensive businesses leverage their IP.