Gregory Hong is an IPilogue Writer and a 1L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC) have partnered to offer the IP Assist program for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”). IPilogue readers may have seen Serena Nath’s recent coverage of another CIC program, ElevateIP, which provides funding for a similar purpose through a different government channel. That article outlined the motivation behind these types of programs and summed up that Canadian SMEs often lack access to the means to protect intellectual property (IP) and highlighted a clear economic need for innovative Canadian businesses to improve their IP commercialization.
NRC IRAP, CIC, and IPIC
The NRC IRAP provides a range of innovation support services for Canadian SMEs. The program offers funding, advisory services, and networking opportunities to help SMEs undertake research and development (“R&D”) and to commercialize, and improve their competitiveness in domestic and global markets. IRAP also provides support for technology adoption, productivity improvement, and business expansion. On February 16, 2023, the Government of Canada announced that NRC IRAP will be integrated into the Canada Innovation Corporation (CIC).
The CIC will be a new, operationally independent organization solely dedicated to supporting business R&D across all regions and all sectors of the economy. It is a federal initiative that will be investing $2.6 billion over four years that aims to “play an important role in building a stronger and more innovative Canadian economy for generations to come.” The CIC will include an umbrella of programs, including both IP Assist and ElevateIP, to support the development and exploitation of IP.
IPIC is Canada’s professional association of patent agents, trademark agents and lawyers practicing in all areas of intellectual property (“IP”) law and is comprised of over 1700 members. IPIC’s role in the IP Assist program is to match SMEs with IPIC members who practice in their specific industry. The IP professional will help SMEs better understand the key aspects of IP and how it can support their business goals.
The IP Assist Program
There are three levels to the IP Assist Program — levels 1, 2 and 3 (L1, L2, L3, respectively). Each level brings increased funding:L1 – up to $1k, L2 – up to $20k, L3 – up to $20k+), as well as increasing engagement with an IP professional matched to the SME:
The L1 IP Awareness is a one-to-one IP awareness session during which an IP professional will provide industry-specific IP information and guidance to an SME. Engagement at L1 provides IP professionals with an opportunity to connect, support and guide innovative Canadian SME to help them achieve their business goals. Engagements with SMEs will take, on average, up to 3 hours and include an IP awareness presentation followed by Q&As.
The L2 IP Strategy relates to the IRAP SME’s specific technology space, aligns with the IRAP SMEs business objectives, and provides IRAP SMEs with specific prioritized IP actions. The IP Strategy must be informed by key relevant information relating to the technology and competitor landscapes relevant to the IRAP SMEs.
The L3 IP Implementation relates to detailed IP asset assessments, such as IP audits, trademark clearance searches, prior art searches and analysis, advice on branding strategy, legal analysis of IP landscaping, patentability analysis, licensing strategy formulation, and other activities. However, some patent and trademark preparation services and filing fees may not be covered.
Canada’s investment in the CIC indicates that there is an increased focus on innovation as a driver of economic growth. There is also a clear aim through programs like IP Assist and ElevateIP to ensure that IP generated by innovative SMEs in Canada are carefully strategized for and well-protected. Hopefully, this increases Canadian presence in innovation and brings greater investment in R&D into Canada.