June 1, 2021

    This article by Jayson appeared in the Toronto Start on June 1st, 2021.

    The Canadian business and tech communities talk a lot these days about the importance of protecting intellectual property (IP), especially through patent rights. For a country with a certified case of IP anxiety — we import too much, we commercialize too little — it’s one more thing to obsess over.

    But while we’re worrying about patents, we occasionally forget the big picture: We aren’t in business to protect IP, but to create the most value possible from it.

    It seems so obvious when it’s framed that way, but many of us miss the forest for the trees, which is ironic for a country trying to shift from natural resources to a modern knowledge economy. In many ways, IP and talent are Canada’s natural resources of the 21st century. We need to apply them to generate value for Canadians — that’s what drives job creation and economic growth.

    Any company or policy maker thinking about patents and IP strategy should take a step back to consider that larger goal. Don’t get me wrong — of course, we need patents, and Canadian companies need support in order to protect them. But it should be one tactic serving a larger plan for extracting value from IP.
     
    The potential spectrum of IP assets is enormous. Copyright, trademarks, industry know-how, secret sauces. Databases, algorithms, customer lists, relationships, branding, package design. It’s all IP. Even for highly innovative tech companies, patents are just one slice of it. Among 50 tech startups surveyed by the Innovation Economy Council, all 50 reported owning intellectual property — in contrast with just 18 per cent of Canadian businesses overall. And their most commonly owned type of IP? Trade secrets (88 per cent of companies), not patents (68 per cent).
     

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