IP Intensive: An Entrepreneurial Perspective of Intellectual Property Law - a Semester at ventureLAB

My internship at ventureLAB as part of Osgoode’s IP Intensive program, broadened my perspective on intellectual property law in a way that I did not expect. It was a richly rewarding learning experience that I could not have acquired through academic courses. ventureLAB is a non-for-profit business accelerator, specifically geared to entrepreneurs in the technology and health sectors. Entrepreneurs seeking to grow their business engage with ventureLAB for its business development programs and network of specialized business advisors and mentors.

There is nothing in this world that excites me more than creativity. It is the underlying reason I want to practice intellectual property law. My expectation was that a placement at ventureLAB would afford me the opportunity to work in an environment rich in creativity and innovation. Combined with my legal training, I expected that my background in engineering and business would provide me with a comprehensive set of knowledge to assist the entrepreneurs that I would encounter at ventureLAB. Although my expectations were fulfilled, I treasure my internship at ventureLAB for entirely different reasons. If I was forced to describe my internship in one word, it would be “enlightening”.

Prior to beginning my internship at ventureLAB, I completed a positive Summer work term at Bereskin & Parr LLP, an intellectual property law firm in Toronto. In the academic year leading up to this Summer work term, I completed courses in Patents, Copyright and Trademarks. I remember feeling like my feet were firmly on the ground heading into ventureLAB for my first day. I realized early on that I had an incomplete perspective of how intellectual property law, my chosen field, intersected with entrepreneurship. I was no longer looking at intellectual property law through a textbook or lecture notes. I was no longer looking at intellectual property through the established clients I typically encountered at Bereskin & Parr. I was now looking at intellectual property through the eyes of a start-up. It is a primal perspective unlike any other, one that is steeped in bewilderment and coated with a layer of misconception.

My experiences leading up to my internship with ventureLAB offered minimal opportunity for direct interaction with the client. Throughout the internship, the opportunities I had to engage directly with clients were abundant. I contributed in a legal clinic led by Jason Sasha, an associate of Ricketts Harris LLP, for ventureLAB clients with specific legal questions relating to their business. I learned a great deal from Mr. Sasha in the effective way to communicate legal information to clients. I participated as a legal advisor in several Review Panels. In Review Panels, entrepreneurs pitch their business to business analysts, enabling ventureLAB to determine what assistance it can offer the entrepreneur. However, the most rewarding experiences came when I had the opportunity to interact with clients one-on-one. Several clients looking for legal advice in intellectual property law were referred to me by ventureLAB business advisors. It was these interactions that broadened my perspective of intellectual property law.

ventureLAB holds partner meetings every Tuesday morning. Attendance at these meeting reveals the vast ecosystem of which ventureLAB is part. ventureLAB is one of many non-for-profit organizations in the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE Network), a collaborative network with the goal of helping small businesses succeed. It is through these partner meetings that everyone in the ecosystem is updated on upcoming events, success stories, and new initiatives. Chris Dudley of Seneca College, who I met at a partner meeting, asked me to deliver a set of lectures on patent prosecution to a group of entrepreneurial students at the school’s Newnham Campus. Ken Bousfield, a partner at Bereskin & Parr, was generous enough to come help me deliver the lectures. Like many of the clients I interacted with at ventureLAB, the students who attended these presentations were largely uninformed in intellectual property law. This is great for lawyers practicing intellectual property law, but alarming for those trying to innovate and protect their business. I found that many clients and students had developed cynical feelings towards intellectual property; feelings I can now properly appreciate. It comes as a shock to many entrepreneurs when they realize that attaining intellectual property rights is more complex and expensive than originally perceived.

I likened my role at ventureLAB to that of a gap-filler. I was providing entrepreneurs foundation in intellectual property law that would enable them to make sound decisions regarding their potential intellectual property rights. It was clear to me that many entrepreneurs have an insufficient understanding of intellectual property before they approach a lawyer practicing in the field. This can lead to ill-fated decisions when the lawyer assumes the client is sufficiently versed in what the they wish to pursue or is too self-interested to inquire.

Where my academic studies and experience at Bereskin & Parr prepared me for the substantive and nuanced elements of intellectual property law, my experience at ventureLAB provided me a more holistic vantage of intellectual property law. Instead of working on specifics, e.g. arguments to obviousness rejections, I advised clients on what applying for a patent could do to their business and all the crucial questions they should answer before applying. The entrepreneurs I interacted with throughout my internship possessed passion and determination in staggering amounts. Having the opportunity to assist entrepreneurs in their navigation of intellectual property law was extremely rewarding work. I highly recommended ventureLAB as your placement if this kind of work is of interest to you.

 

Justin Philpott 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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