The Government of Ontario today announced the launch of a new agency meant to help businesses commercialize their ideas and products.
Intellectual Property Ontario is meant to serve as a go-to resource for Intellectual Property (IP) expertise to help researchers and companies with their IP, and comes from work the provincial government has been pushing forward over the last few years.
The creation of the agency had been previously reported by The Globe and Mail, though the Ontario government declined to comment at the time. The government officially announced the agency today, noting it will be a board-governed agency to strengthen local business capacity “to grow and compete in the global market.”
Vic Fedeli, Ontario’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade, called the agency a significant milestone in the province’s Intellectual Property Action Plan. Ontario created that initiative in 2020 with the goal of driving long-term economic competitiveness by prioritizing IP.
“Ontario has a world-class postsecondary education system and is home to innovative start-ups and scale-up firms,” said Jill Dunlop, Ontario minister of colleges and universities. “Giving postsecondary education institutions, businesses and innovators the support they need to help generate, protect, manage, and commercialize their intellectual property will support innovators, encourage long-term economic growth and ensure that Ontario taxpayers benefit from the inventions and discoveries that result from publicly funded research and innovation.”
The Intellectual Property Action Plan was created based on the recommendations of an expert IP panel launched by the province. The panel released its recommendations in early 2020 and laid out an action plan for a provincial IP framework.
“IP is, by definition, a government-granted exclusive ownership right to an idea, and continued leadership from the Government of Ontario is critical to the success of these recommendations,” said Council of Canadian Innovators chair and BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie, who chaired the panel. Balsillie has long-championed and called for the need for companies and Canadian governments to focus on IP.
The description of the new IP agency touches on parts of the panel recommendations, but not all, focusing mainly on education rather than creating clearly defined mandates to bolster IP in the province.
Intellectual Property Ontario will be chaired by Karima Bawa, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Bawa called the agency a “vitally important organization that will support innovators in their efforts to protect and leverage their IP for economic and social benefit.”
Additional board members include Sally Daub, founder of Pool Global Partners; Elliot Fung, executive director at Medical Innovation Xchange; Dan Herman, PhD and special advisor to government and the founder of Go To Jupiter Productions Inc; and Hongwei Liu, chief executive director of Mappedin.
The provincial focus on IP comes as the federal government established an Innovation Asset Collective in 2019 (led by Balsillie) as part of its own broader IP strategy. The collective focuses specifically on cleantech. While the federal government has not put much emphasis on its IP plans, Prime Minister Trudeau touched upon IP in his most recent mandate letters to ministers.