Madiha Khan, Student Writer, Windsor Law LTEC Lab Dual J.D., 2019
On November 18, 2017, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) hosted a webinar for current and aspiring female entrepreneurs, with a special focus on how intellectual property (IP) can be utilized to enhance business outcomes. The webinar was delivered by Darlene Carreau, the Director General of CIPO’s Business Services Branch, and covered the importance of IP, the various types of IP, as well as advice and tips for IP strategy. Although the information provided was not tailored specifically towards women, the webinar provided a supportive space for female innovators and business owners to learn about IP together. As well, since many of the participants were female entrepreneurs and business owners rather than lawyers or law students, the webinar provided more of a generalized introduction to basic IP principles rather than an in-depth discussion of them.
The webinar first began with a quick overview of CIPO’s mandates, which include examining and granting IP rights, providing quasi-judicial functions for trademarks and patents, raising awareness for the effective use of IP, and the sharing of IP information to support innovation. Since many of the webinar participants were women entrepreneurs or business owners with little to no experience with IP, the webinar emphasized the benefits of taking the time to plan and incorporate an IP strategy into existing and future business ventures. These benefits included having an extra edge over competitors, increased recognition and reputation with partners and clients, and the possibility of attracting more lucrative financing.
The webinar discussed the various types of IP, such as trademarks, patents, trade secrets, copyright, and industrial design, and provided tips for making the best use of them. For trademarks, CIPO recommended that the entrepreneur first conduct a preliminary search online on the Canadian Trademarks Database (https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/opic-cipo/trdmrks/srch/home) to make sure that their chosen name or logo had not already been trademarked. CIPO also encouraged participants to keep a positive outlook throughout the trademark application process as not all applications get approved on the first attempt.
Next, the webinar provided some tips for working with patents, such as conducting a preliminary prior art search online, and hiring a patent agent. CIPO also recommended filing for a patent as soon as possible as they are awarded on a first-to-file basis. Further, the webinar discussed some of the requirements of patentability, such as novelty, non-obviousness, and usefulness. When it came to trade secrets, the webinar suggested using nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements in order to protect valuable information. For those entrepreneurs wanting to register and protect a distinctive feature of their product, such as an original shape, configuration, or pattern, CIPO recommended the use of industrial designs. CIPO also advised the entrepreneurs to again conduct a preliminary search before submitting an application. Lastly, the webinar strongly urged the participants to copyright their work whenever possible as it can help to prove the rightful owner and because it is fairly easy to register copyright online using the CIPO website. The webinar concluded with strategies and tips on how to create and maintain an IP portfolio, and the participants were strongly urged to contact CIPO for assistance and answers to any IP related questions. CIPO also provided websites for IP resources for businesses (www.canada.ca/ip-for-business) and academics (www.canada.ca/ip-academy). For those interested in finding out more about CIPO and IP in Canada, visit www.canada.ca/intellectualproperty.
Overall, I found the webinar to be quite effective at conveying the basic principles of IP. I especially appreciated the safe space that the webinar created for female innovators and business owners to engage in discussions and ask questions about IP, especially since these fields continue be male-dominated. And while the webinar did not cover the legal concepts of IP in detail, I still found it to be very engaging as a female law student because of its supportive nature and its focus on helping women entrepreneurs grow their businesses and succeed.