How do Tech Incubators Handle IP? My IP Intensive Experience with ventureLAB

How do Tech Incubators Handle IP? My IP Intensive Experience with ventureLAB

Tushar Sharma is a 3L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. This article was written as a requirement for Prof. Pina D’Agostino’s IP Intensive Program.

My name is Tushar Sharma, and I did my IP Intensive internship with VentureLAB, one of Canada’s premier technology incubators and a non-profit organization that supports start-ups throughout the early stages of their growth.

I joined the IP Intensive Program with the hopes that I would be able to work with VentureLAB, having a keen interest in venture capital work, technology, and intellectual property. This opportunity seemed like the perfect blend of all three and spoke to how I would like to practice law in the future. Needless to say, I had high expectations going into the experience because of how keen I was about the subject matter.

From the first day I had my expectations exceeded in every way. My initial introduction with my supervisor Josée was incredibly warm, open, and made me feel very welcome. She supplemented this introduction with having me sit in on one-on-one sessions with VentureLAB clients from the very first week of the placement. I was not expecting to be meeting directly with clients this early, or honestly at all given my limited experience, but Josée had enough confidence in my abilities to let me participate, and even offer my opinion to clients when I had something to say and felt comfortable. My supervisor’s confidence in my abilities helped me develop my own confidence in this arena, and I slowly began to become more comfortable talking to clients and offering IP advice as my experience grew.

As I spoke on earlier, I am interested in, and hope to practice, in the intersection of intellectual property and venture capital. This experience opened my eyes to the direct needs of start-ups, and the best way to serve their interests. As their resources are limited and they do not often have a breadth of legal knowledge, start-ups tend to be IP agnostic, or at least unsure of the best ways to develop and implement a viable IP strategy. I think this is something that is often missed by lawyers, based on conversations with lawyers, and in order to best serve clients, I need to understand their struggles and also understand that every start-up is particular in their needs. Being able to be flexible, knowledgeable, and considerate will help me serve clients better, and those are exactly the skills I developed throughout my internship with VentureLAB.

The intellectual property department at VentureLAB is fairly small relative to other internships in the IP Intensive program, but I think I preferred it to be organized in this manner. This gave me a lot more one-on-one time with my supervisor, and it created an environment where we could lean on one another, bounce ideas off each other, and work through intellectual property issues plaguing clients as a team. What really helped this process was how much Josée respected me, valued my opinions, and took in what I had to offer despite her having vastly more experience than me in this arena. Josée understood that, as a law student, I tackle issues from a different perspective from her and she would often look to me for a legal perspective, which clients often found valuable (with the explicit caveat that nothing either of us stated was legal advice in any way, shape or form). Moreover, this allowed me to learn and absorb techniques that my supervisor used in breaking down complicated IP processes into palatable information sessions. Being able to learn and observe how the IP was structured at VentureLAB gave me a holistic understanding of effective IP strategization at a successful enterprise.

Outside of my direct IP experience with VentureLAB, the team at the company is phenomenal and their familial culture makes it easy to integrate and feel like a part of the team, even in the short amount of time I was there. VentureLAB is filled with people who are willing to learn, teach, work hard, and have fun. I never had a negative experience with any of my colleagues, and I believe I have built lifelong connections with some of my peers there. My experience was also enhanced by the fact that I was able to participate in VentureLAB’s premier annual conference on Canadian hardware innovation, HardTech. Given the breadth of knowledge and experience on the team, I was able to learn a lot during my placement, and this experience has been invaluable to my growth and future career as a lawyer.