The recent Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has set off debates on the intellectual property (IP) chapter. Most critics allege that the agreement could harm Canadian companies. While the U.S. negotiators did not get all of their initial demands approved, critics say the agreement largely reflects the preferences of the U.S.
To deal with the issue, rather than going with the rules made by foreigners or withdrawing from trade negotiations, Canada must recognize that while we cannot shape international rules to our liking, we can play within the margins of these rules and use the loopholes, flexibilities and omissions in them to our best interests. This could enhance our innovation and commercialization capacity, experts said.
This strategic approach has been successfully used in the past to support companies. International rules restricted the ability of governments to give preferential treatment to goods and services produced by domestic firms. This strategy was used there to support these companies through pre-commercial procurement. A similar method can also be used in intellectual property rights.
Other countries have already used this strategy; they have used state-backed patent funds to protect their national firms. Countries like Japan, South Korea and France are successfully using these funds to acquire patents, license them and even enforce them if the need arises.
This patent fund model can help commercialize Canada’s intellectual property while abiding with the rules of international trade. Another advantage is that this way of working is flexible and could help us focus on certain core sectors and firms. Staying flexible is extremely important when it comes to dealing with IPR.
A fund backed by the state could provide support to help high potential companies develop IP strategies that support rapid growth and scaling, according to experts. Funds can be created for uses according to the need for it. For example, a fund could support protection of our country’s existing intellectual property resources and help secure Canadian innovators freedom to operate.
When used in addition to startup support structures like business accelerators and incubators, such funds can be a huge step towards helping new tech companies have a stronghold in intellectual property.
The good news is that Canada already has the intellectual property rights expertise to implement this model in a successful way. We can also learn from the mistakes of our predecessors and use their experience to give our innovators an edge over others.
Some experts compare the IP support received by innovators to coaching and training that athletes receive, Just like national athletes cannot succeed internationally without proper coaching and training, innovators cannot reach the pinnacle without national IP support. The experts seem to conclude that a national IP strategy is the way forward.
The question now is –When?