Blockchain, Cannabis, and AI; How CIPO stays relevant in our world of change

Blockchain, Cannabis, and AI; How CIPO stays relevant in our world of change

I had the privilege of spending my IPOsgoode intensive placement at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. While two and a half months might seem long in law school, my time with the office flew by. One thing my experience has taught me is that the government has committed to providing relevant, informed, and useful IP services to the Canadian public.

My intensive supervisor, Darlene Carreau, was a former trademark lawyer with a career in both private practice at a large national firm and public service with the department of justice. As a former Interim Assistant Commissioner of Patents and Director General, Patent Branch and current Director General, Business Services, Darlene ensured I had access to the cutting-edge work each of the departments of CIPO was doing. While she is a busy senior executive, she always made time to see me if I had questions or was looking for mentorship.

Rotating through basically every department at CIPO, I got to see just how aware the office is of changing technology and how it affects the administration of IP rights in Canada. While I cannot speak on some particulars for privacy and security clearance concerns, I can tell you the office is grappling with blockchain and cryptocurrency and how it should be handled in patents, trademarks, and copyright. These are tough issues many international intellectual property offices do not have guidelines on yet, so CIPO looks to be a trend setter in this regard. The office wants to get these issues right, and the professionals working on these problems are open-minded and willing to learn.

As a learning experience, I think I have the other students this year beat. While shadowing a patent examiner, I got to see how they actually deal with those 200 claim patents. The key elements of the patent, the relationship between independent and dependant claims, as well as the international prosecution are all used to ensure a patent has been rightfully awarded when it should be. While shadowing a trademark examiner, I got to see how those tricky non-traditional mark applications are being handled. It was a very busy year in trademarks, as three international agreements were being implement by the office.

Speaking of international agreements, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement crossed my desk after its public release during my placement. The agreement has broad implications for IP, and a few changes will be seen in domestic Canadian IP law that I had a direct hand in shaping. This level of work is frankly not experienced by junior level employees. As an IPOsgoode law student, I was asked for feedback on many projects and it was taken seriously by those I worked with. The level of respect and deference I received when using my professional judgement was rewarding, and I look forward to providing more high-quality advice as my career continues.

I can honestly say there were times I felt like a practicing lawyer. I was given novel legal questions to research where there were no clear answers. I contributed to round table discussions on how cannabis goods and services should be treated and classified in trademark applications. I looked at how administrative law relates to the use of AI tools in examination processes. I explained how legal concepts relate to the business concerns of IP rights management. I prepared professionals on the legal arguments of a contentious issue, as well as the litigation risk certain positions on the issue create.

CIPO understands that young professionals are required to ensure the government stays up to date and relevant in its service initiatives. I’m happy to recommend them either to a student considering a placement next year or someone considering a career in IP. Between being an examiner and developing IP policy, there are lots of opportunities available!


Written by Daniel Rizzi.  Daniel is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.