This month, the independent Expert Panel on Intellectual Property released its report to the Government of Ontario (the “Report”). The Report recognizes both how the economic importance of intangible assets (for example, IP and data) has grown over the past decade and how Ontario (and Canada more generally) has been lagging behind our counterparts south of the border in capitalizing on the benefits of the new economy. The Report is a call for a Made-in-Ontario approach to the commercialization of innovation to overcome issues around IP ownership, expertise, capacity, funding, education and industry engagement.
One key finding of the Report was that small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”), while a driver of innovation in Canada, are not effectively capitalizing their intangible assets. One of the key factors identified as holding back SMEs in Ontario was a lack of IP literacy: that is, many SMEs don’t know the value of their intangible assets, nor how to effectively protect or commercialize them.
Southwestern Ontario is home to some of Canada’s best post-secondary institutions and leading, innovative SMEs operating in a broad range of industries, and not only those industries thought of as “high tech”. SMEs in our region are not only innovation leaders in AI and communications, but also entertainment, agriculture, manufacturing, biotechnology, and health, just to name a few. There is no doubt that valuable intangible assets are constantly being created in Southwest Ontario, suggesting lucrative opportunities for SMEs in the region to capitalize and commercialize this valuable asset class.
While patents are often the primary focus when one thinks of intangible assets, it’s important to recognize that these are only one kind of valuable asset, and commercialization opportunities can be found in other areas. The Report identifies 13 different classes:
- Copyright including Moral Rights and Neighbouring Rights
- Domain Names
- Geographical Indications
- Industrial Designs or Design Patents
- Integrated Circuit Topography
- Plant Breeders’ Rights
- Personality Rights
- Trade Secrets
- Utility Models
All of these classes of intangible asset contribute to the success of SMEs in Ontario. But to fully capitalize on and protect these assets, one first has to know what one has. An IP audit can help to identify intangible assets and how they fit into one’s business model and create value. This process is also useful in organizing a business or project prior to a sale transaction or other valuation event. Such a process can also identify new sources of revenue and inform and develop an intellectual property strategy.
Contact a Lerners business lawyer to discuss how you can identify and protect your valuable intangible assets.