Natalie Raffoul is managing partner and intellectual property lawyer Brion Raffoul LLP and expert panelist for the government of Ontario.
Jim Hinton is the founder and lawyer of intellectual property at Own Innovation, and one of the founders of the Innovation Asset Collective
With Canada’s economy damaged by the corona virus and the federal and provincial governments focused on short-term steps to support Canadian work, our economic composition and innovation strategies that have been missed for decades have now proven to have dire consequences – both for our health and for us. prosperity.
Because Canadians do not own or control vital intellectual property rights for much-needed health products, such as masks and ventilators, we are not only dependent on other countries but are also in danger from shipping defective goods.
The latest investment in research and development aiming to develop important health care products, services and vaccines is not accompanied by an IP strategy that will ensure that the benefits of commercialization increase for Canadian taxpayers who fund them. For example, reported this month Canada The National Research Council signed an agreement with CanSino China where Canadians are involved in research and making a foothold for cell lines to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, but the resulting IP rights are owned by Chinese companies. In addition, the agreement was not accompanied by a guarantee that Canada would receive any vaccine supplies produced – vaccines supported and funded by Canadian taxpayers.
Canada taking the tab for foreign company research is a familiar and systemic problem, especially for technologies of strategic value such as 5G and artificial intelligence. Public funding through experts at Dalhousie University has contributed many patented inventions on which to base New battery ‘million miles’ Tesla. But, unfortunately, Canadians will not be the party to benefit financially from this discovery. Instead, we will pay them once again as part of commercial products that are sold back to us.
This is just the latest example of a very unique disease that has affected our economic well-being for some time – the tendency of Canadian taxpayers to fund and create ideas that are commercialized by other countries.
Innovation without an IP strategy is philanthropic, and Canada provides family farming when we can least afford it. “Canada is an open source factory in the world for ideas. We made it, but let the others commercialize it, “said one participant in the report prepared by 2020 expert panel report on IP in the Ontario innovation ecosystem. Despite announcing an intellectual property strategy in 2018, real action is needed to see a measurable increase in Canada’s IP position and global commercialization relative to its global competitors.
More research funding will not result in more commercialization and increased economic wealth for Canadians without achieving freedom to operate for Canadian companies competing in the global market. IP rights are a requirement for securing this freedom, and Canadian policymakers must immediately support Canadian ownership of IP and valuable data within Canadian entities.
This is the only way we will add value to our company and ensure we create wealth for Canadians today and in the future. This is the wealth needed to support our increased public spending and critical health infrastructure.
To achieve these goals, there are three ideas that the federal government can immediately implement:
- Commit to funding a decent national IP collective with specific resources that can produce, accumulate and unlock IP assets for the benefit of the Canadian economy. Current plans for sector-specific “pilot projects” are quickly becoming an inadequate measure given the diversity and number of Canadian high-growth companies who worry they will be targeted for takeovers as a result of a pandemic
- Dedicate appropriate funding for the creation and management of strategic data trust for Canadian innovators to open, accumulate and commercialize Canadian data assets.
- Addressing strategic procurement in core areas such as urban innovation and health technology. Urban innovation is another area in which the Canadian government is touting Canadian citizens as leaders, but we have less than 1 percent of patents in this space. With the release of the Alphabet Sidewalk Maze from the Toronto smart waterfront project, we can now rethink our innovation strategy to drive economic development.
As we have said before, there is a tremendous economic opportunity for Canada in building smart cities. However, we need a paradigm shift from just looking at the economic opportunities of brick-and-mortar buildings to consider and take advantage of opportunities for Canadian innovators to own and exploit the IP they develop for the benefit of our economy. Only then can we move from being IP tenants to IP owners and capturing returns in the global economy of IP and data.
Work and research capacity alone will not be enough to overcome our current health and economic problems. We need an innovation capacity that supports and promotes domestic ownership of valuable IPs. This is the first important step for Canadian companies to become global champions. We need true ambition in times of crisis.
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