New Canadian IP strategy includes money for IP tools and literacy

By Bruce Berman
May 5, 2018

In a move that recognizes the importance of innovation and IP rights – and the need for diverse audiences to understand how they work – the Canadian government has announced that it is investing $88.3M (CD) to create a new IP strategy that incorporates IP awareness and education.

The intent is to “help Canadian business, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators understand, protect and access intellectual property (IP) through a comprehensive IP Strategy.” The new IP Strategy will make changes in three key areas: Legislation, Literacy and Advice. “Building an understanding of IP among Canadians is a major component of ensuring that entrepreneurs, businesses, creators and innovators recognize the value of IP,” states Canada’s IP Strategy website

“This new IP strategy acknowledges the concerns expressed by the business community. By removing barriers to innovation, creating a business portal and strengthening the rules around use of IP, the government is supporting businesses of all sizes that depend on their intellectual property to compete on the global stage,” said the Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

The Canadian government announcement said that intellectual property is a key component of an innovation economy. It helps Canadian innovators reach commercial success, further discovery and create middle-class jobs by protecting their ideas and ensuring they reap the full rewards of their inventions and creations.

Canada says that IP Strategy will help entrepreneurs better understand and protect intellectual property and have better access to shared intellectual property. Canada is a leader in research, science, creation and invention, but believes it can do more when it comes to commercializing innovations.

The new IP strategy received praise from a wide range of industries, including aerospace, biotech and music. Canada’s population is approximately one-tenth of that of the U.S.’ The IP Strategy’s budget allocation can be found here.

Inadequate Protection

The Trump administration on April 28 labelled 36 countries as “inadequately protecting US intellectual property rights, keeping China on a priority watch list and adding Canada over concerns about its border controls and pharmaceutical practices.”

For all 36 the countries on the U.S.’ “2018 Special 301 Report” from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), go here.

Suite of Seminars

A suite of seminars, training and information resources about intellectual property (IP) tailored for businesses and innovators. As part of the “Literacy and Advice” section of IP Strategy the Canadian IP Office (CIPO) will:

  • Launch a suite of programs  to help improve IP literacy among Canadians
  • Support for domestic and international engagement between Indigenous people and decision makers as well as for research activities and capacity building
  • Support training for federal employees who deal with IP governance.
  • Provide tools to support Canadian businesses as they learn about IP and pursue their own IP strategies
  • Create a patent collective to bring together businesses to facilitate better IP outcomes for members. The patent collective is the coming together of firms to share in IP expertise and strategy, including gaining access to a larger collection of patents and IP.

According to the CIPO small and medium-sized businesses that hold formal IP are three times more likely to engage in product innovation than those without IP; two times more likely to engage in other types of innovation; four times more likely to export; and 64 percent more likely to be high growth.

Lesson Learned

Earlier this year, the UK IP Office (UK IPO) introduced a copyright awareness program with a series of educational animations for students seven to eleven-years-old.  “Nancy and the Meercats,” under the Cracking Ideas initiative, met with nasty opposition from the likes of Techdirt and Torrent Freak. They believe that helping children to understand IP right from wrong is little more than brainwashing, which is predictable given the bias in these publications. Techdirt and Torrent Freak often have an IP axe to grind and believe that content and code should be broadly shared, and that piracy is not theft. Concepts foreign to those who actually create.

“UK Teaches 7-Year-Olds that Piracy is Stealing” was the title of the Torrent Freak article, feigning shock that one would even suggest piracy would be stealing. I don’t know about others, but the thought of piracy as not acceptable hardly seems controversial, even if some coders and content providers – and patent infringers – believe it is.

The UK IPO less than vigorously defended its decision to educate children about IP rights, leaving an impression less than positive to some. A BBC story attempted to sort things out. The animations are somewhat heavy-handed and point to the challenges IP education, especially when directed towards specific audiences, such as children. However, the UK IPO, as well as the USPTO, WIPO and other groups, deserve praise for endeavoring to reach young people early about IP rights. By high school attitudes are often difficult to change.

It is not clear if the UK IPO materials included input from K-12 educators, parents or children. Kids have a good nonsense meter. IP education for young people must offer more than colorful images wrapped around a story that adults want to convey; they need to be relevant and periodically reinforced by teachers and parents, as well as personalities they can trust.

The Author

Bruce Berman

Bruce Berman is principal of Brody Berman Associates, a management consulting and strategic communications firm he founded in 1988. He has supported 200+ IP portfolios, executives and businesses, including law firms and their clients. Bruce is responsible for five books, including From Ideas to Assets and The Intangible Investor and The Intangible Investor. He also writes The Intangible Investor column, which appears in IAM magazine. His weekly posts about trends can be seen at IP CloseUp. In 2016, Bruce founded the the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding, an independent, non-profit that focuses on IP awareness and education.

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