IP Intensive Program: A Semester at ventureLAB

In Fall of 2014, I had the privilege of participating in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program.  I was placed at ventureLAB, a non-profit Regional Innovation Centre and a member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, which helps entrepreneurs in York Region, Simcoe County and Muskoka District bring their innovations to market. Its tagline, mentoring – partnering – connecting, succinctly summarizes the support ventureLAB provides to entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the community such as academic institutions, investors, and governmental agencies. Clients come to ventureLAB from various industry sectors and at different stages of their individual business lifecycle. The organization offers a variety of services, including business workshops and one-on-one mentoring with ventureLAB’s Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs), a dedicated team of industry experts.

I chose ventureLAB as my placement because the organization promised extensive interaction with clients. This promise was fully delivered. My internship experience was similar to running a legal clinic: clients facing Intellectual Property (IP) related issues were referred to me by their mentors, and from there, I was responsible for managing them. The entrepreneurs’ IP needs and understanding of IP law was as diverse as their businesses. Throughout my internship, I had to answer questions in varying degrees of depth pertaining to different IP fields, some of which I had not been exposed to. The most commonly sought information pertained to non-disclosure agreements, IP-related employment clauses, IP licensing and assignments (particularly in the software field), as well as the process of obtaining a patent and the cost involved. Clients also often asked me to explain to them the content of letters from their lawyers.

Helping ventureLAB’s clients provided me with a valuable opportunity to apply my IP knowledge in practice and learn to effectively communicate information to different people. In addition, I was able to gain great insights about “real world” factors that impacted clients’ legal rights, such the feasibility of enforcing these rights and the amount of damages, if any, that they could expect to recover in the event of a breach. In that regard, I had the benefit of observing a Legal Information Clinic administered at ventureLAB on a monthly basis by Jason Sacha, a Ricketts Harris LLP associate. Observing Jason also helped me learn how to properly advise clients of the nature of the services I was entitled to provide to them as a law student (i.e. legal information, not legal advice). In addition, I was fortunate to have Bhupinder Randhawa, a partner and the Head of the Electrical and Computer Technology Practice Group at Bereskin & Parr LLP as my legal supervisor. Bhupinder was available not only for providing advice with regards to clients’ questions, but also offered general guidance with respect to practicing IP law.

Although my work at ventureLAB involved a high degree of independence, my supervisor, Paul Rivett, and the CEO, Jeremy Laurin, made sure that I stayed involved with the organization. I attended partner and staff meetings and joined ventureLAB’s team on tours to incubators and accelerators who shared ventureLAB’s mission of helping entrepreneurs succeed. In addition, I was given an opportunity to participate in ventureLAB’s workshops and observe the Advisory Panel’s client intake sessions, during which prospective clients delivered presentations about their businesses to a panel of EIRs. After the presentations, members of the Advisory Panel commented on the business’ viability, addressed particular concerns with the business model, gave strategic advice and determined what assistance they could provide to these entrepreneurs. Since I had no business background, these sessions gave me an unparalleled opportunity to understand the process of creating and growing a successful business and how IP strategy ties into this process. In addition, the Panel welcomed my input on these clients’ IP issues, which gave me an opportunity to engage in the Panel’s discussions.

My placement at ventureLAB was invaluable for gaining hands-on client management experience and a practical understanding of the IP needs of young businesses. I gained more than just legal experience, however. During my time at ventureLAB, I met exceptionally creative, passionate and energetic people and saw state-of-the-art facilities designed to help entrepreneurs succeed in their ventures. Inspired by the dedication of those around me to stimulate innovation and grow Ontario’s economy, I am motivated to contribute to this objective in my future career. I would highly recommend students to consider this placement, regardless of whether or not they have a business background.

 

Anya Lavrov 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.

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