IP of the Future: Implications for Canada

IP of the Future: Implications for Canada

I had the honour of representing Canada over the past year on a very ambitious and forward-looking initiative by the International Trademark Association (INTA), which set up three international think tanks to produce reports on the IP Law Firms of the Future, the In-House Practice of the Future and the IP Office of the Future.

As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), I joined 13 other current and former Heads of IP Offices from around the world to explore the evolution of the IP system and future challenges and opportunities for IP Offices.

Our report identifies the key factors impacting the global IP system, notably the rise of the intangibles economy; the internationalization of the IP system; the speed of technological change and its increasingly interdisciplinary nature; and the growing importance of IP to innovation and trade policies worldwide.

From my perspective as the former CEO of CIPO, it is clear that IP Offices need to grow beyond the traditional role of IP administrators and become partners in their country’s innovation ecosystem. For example, over the past four years, CIPO has stepped out into the marketplace with a very active set of new programs for Canadian business and innovators to help them leverage their IP for export and growth. We did this through our IP Awareness and Education Program and by forming dozens of partnerships with business organizations, incubators, export development and financing agencies, IP Agents and others.

Canada is also now a full player in the global IP system, having implemented international IP treaties for Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Patents. The Government of Canada’s National IP Strategy is another important milestone to help Canada position itself well in an increasingly international IP system. And the recently launched Innovation Asset Collective is designed to help Canadian entrepreneurs protect their assets in an innovation economy.

I was struck with the similarities between our report as Heads of IP Offices and the two reports of the IP legal community. Not only did they see similar trends for the IP system, but they also noted the importance for IP practitioners to broaden their perspective beyond the legal and technical underpinnings of IP, and be equipped to provide their clients with broader strategic advice.  

The Executive Summary of the In-House Practice of the Future Report makes the point, for example, that in-house trademark practice will evolve, and that ‘’the legal scope will expand to include other areas of IP and adjacent legal areas such as marketing and advertising law, digital issues including e-commerce, social media, privacy, and data protection as well as regulatory issues.”

Similarly, IP law firms will increasingly become business partners to their clients who ‘’can be expected to develop into global players with a need for the global advice, speed, and flexibility on the part of their outside counsel’’.

There are many other interesting insights in these three reports, and I invite the IP Osgoode community to reflect on the implications for the future IP profession in Canada.

Written by Johanne Bélisle, who has recently completed her five-year mandate as CEO of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in September 2020 and was an active member of the IP Osgoode Advisory Board.