On Thursday, the federal government revealed additional plans for its previously announced ‘patent collective’ that looks to offer Canadian entrepreneurs improved knowledge and access to intellectual property (IP).
“We lack scale individually, yet by banding together and working collectively, Canada has a chance to compete in a global ecosystem.”
At an event at the University of Waterloo, Minister Navdeep Bains announced that the government has chosen a newly launched, and federally incorporated, non-profit called Innovation Asset Collective (IAC) to develop and run the patent collective. The collective will run as a four-year pilot program and will receive $30 million to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the “data-driven” clean technology sector with their IP related needs.
According to the Globe and Mail, the collective includes Waterloo-based intellectual property lawyer Jim Hinton, former Blackberry executive Chris Wormald, as well as Peter Cowan the founder of IP strategy advisory firm Northworks IP.
“In today’s global economy of intangible assets (namely IP and data) it’s critical that Canada build capacity to generate, strategically leverage, and protect the assets we create, whether in the private or public sector,” Cowan said in a government statement that named him as a co-founder of the IAC.
“We recognize that as a nation of small businesses, we lack scale individually, yet by banding together and working collectively, Canada has a chance to compete in a global ecosystem. Our goal is to create the type of IP collective that transforms the way Canadians approach the digital economy and positions Canada for global success,” he stated.
The patent collective was originally announced in April 2018 as a $30 million initiative. It is part of the federal government’s broader IP Strategy that was first announced in Budget 2018, with a dedicated $85.3 million over five years, with $10 million per year ongoing. The strategy hopes to not only create more awareness and access around IP but also includes plans to reform legislation.
“When it comes to business, nothing is more valuable than a great idea – as long as it’s protected,” Bains, the minister in charge of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) stated. “Through the initiatives we are announcing today, our government is making sure that innovative Canadian entrepreneurs have the tools they need to spur innovation, take advantage of new opportunities, and create jobs from coast to coast to coast.”
“Intangible assets such as IP and data are essential stocks for companies to own and commercialize if they want to scale up globally.”
Along with the IAC, the minister also announced the launch of ExploreIP, a new federally-run marketplace of publicly owned IP. Touted as “Canada’s IP Marketplace”, ExploreIP is meant to act as a resource where Canadian entrepreneurs and businesses can access IP, in order to help them commercialize and grow. The government noted that users will be able to contact more than 2,500 patent owners through the platform to negotiate a licence or collaborate on projects.
The marketplace was developed with the support of the Government of Australia, which runs a similar platform called Source IP. It was also created in consultation with Canadian university research and advocacy groups like the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, which includes the University of Waterloo and institutions across Canada from Dalhousie University to the University of British Columbia.
As the third part of Bain’s announcement, the minister also revealed that the government is providing grants to law schools at the University of Ottawa, the University of Windsor, York University, and the Université de Montréal, meant to help develop or expand their IP legal clinic resources. The government stated hopes that these grants will help make pro bono and low-cost IP legal service more accessible to businesses and entrepreneurs. The federal ‘IP Legal Clinics Program’ is set to provide $200,000 per year to the law schools.
IP has long been a concern for Canadian businesses and innovators. According to the government’s IP Canada 2018 Report, Canadian has seen continuous growth in previous years in the number of IP filings. The report noted that this emphasized the importance of IP when it comes to the success of Canadian businesses, both locally and internationally.
On the provincial level, the Government of Ontario has also started looking to address issues around IP. In its most recent budget, the province announced plans to establish an expert panel to assess the effectiveness of provincially-funded universities and incubators in commercializing innovations. Though few details have been shared about the panel, it is set to be led by former Blackberry co-founder, and longtime advocate for IP policy, Jim Balsillie.
“Intangible assets such as IP and data are essential stocks for companies to own and commercialize if they want to scale up globally,” Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators said in April 2018. He called the federal government’s patent collective at the time, “a very welcome development for domestic innovators because it shows the government understands the global economy where our members compete and freedom-to-operate they need to grow their businesses.”