Intellectual property rights are the drivers of the knowledge economy. As a result, international and domestic IP laws play an important role in ensuring global innovative capacity. However, IP laws on their own do not translate into positive economic outcomes. In fact, in spite of having some of the most sophisticated and modern IP laws in the world, Canada fares poorly in a number of reports on global innovation competitiveness, especially in its inability to effectively commercialize IP. For example, the Conference Board of Canada’s How Canada Performs study gave Canada “D” grades on a number of relevant categories including: “patents by population”, “high and medium high tech manufacturing”, “trademarks” and “patenting by firms less than 5 years old. In the Bloomberg report, Canada ranked 23rd in “Patent Activity”. In the World Economic Forum’s– Global Competitiveness Report the country ranked 22nd in “Innovation” (a category that includes IP)..
A number of reasons have been put forward to explain Canada’s weak performance. The aspect I am most interested in relates specifically to questions surrounding the country’s inability to properly harness its IP. I wonder whether a major barrier lies in the costs and complexities of IP legal protection and strategic IP legal advice, especially for early stage IP-intensive start-ups. We can enact all the IP laws that we want but how these laws are operationalized in practice is perhaps the more important consideration for facilitating a robust innovation economy. The question of moment is how to get the necessary IP legal advice and support to early stage ventures at the time when they need it the most but cannot afford the high legal costs.
My research as a Senior Fellow at the International Law Research Program at CIGI consists of developing models for capacity-building in IP legal knowledge and access to IP legal services among the start-up community in Canada. Establishing a network of IP law school clinics is among the menu of options for meaningful solutions to this problem. Another consists of offering high level educational programs in IP strategy to enhance the IP literacy of the start-up community and the intermediaries who support them, including lawyers and business development professionals. As a result, in addition to continuing my work on IP law clinics, I am developing a MOOC on IP Strategy that will be delivered to a broad audience as a stand-alone e-learning project through CIGI and to law students at the Faculty of Law as a flipped classroom course. As an EPICentre Fellow, I will look at how to adapt this IP Strategy MOOC for delivery to business students.
-Story by Professor Myra Tawfik