During my IP Intensive internship with Markham’s business accelerator, ventureLAB, I gained valuable insight into current issues that start-up companies and entrepreneurs alike face. The management team at ventureLAB is dedicated to providing a wide array of opportunities and resources to companies and individuals (referred to as tenants) to help them remedy some of their business concerns. However, no dedicated pro-bono legal advice is included in that array – this is perhaps the only gap in the accelerator’s functionality. I came to realize that questions regarding intellectual property (IP) during entrepreneurial exploits are bound to occur. Most of the tenants I interacted with appeared to have some form of registrable IP and were interested in learning more about the likelihood of registering their IP. ventureLAB’s participation in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program is one prong of their response to this need.
What astounded me during my tenure with ventureLAB was the amount of work that these start-up companies were capable of accomplishing in a day. On top of dealing with a host of daily concerns, the ambitious tenants at ventureLAB were also extremely enthusiastic to share their ideas and current business models with me in exchange for relevant IP law research.
The research was meant to provide information about some area of interest or concern as it pertained to the IP that their business was built around. Through my consultations with these companies, I documented and outlined their concerns or goals, and used these to direct my research on the topic or issue. Due to the fast paced nature of most of these business ventures, I saw my research being quickly passed on to legal specialists in the IP field. Even a small amount of informed IP research can be critically important to a start-up entrepreneur. Providing IP information and knowledge was an incredibly rewarding experience, and served as a fantastic exposure to IP-related issues that lawyers in this field are faced with. I learned that there are major learning curves required of a lawyer who has dedicated their practice in IP law if they want to be able to provide a well-rounded service to their clients.
One major learning point during my time with ventureLAB was learning how to handle, and appreciate, the vast array of IP questions that can arise during the early stages of a start-up business. I was approached with questions regarding; user agreements, licensing agreements, non-disclosure agreements, inventorship rights and employment agreements, branding questions, and patentability concerns. Some of these questions pertain to explicit IP law topics, and others were with respect to the client’s IP as it relates to their business. Either way, I had to learn how to effectively organize my time and research methods to ensure my responses to this array of questions and concerns were accurate. Practicing lawyers are responsible for the initial consultation, in addition to preparing most of the official documents that these entrepreneurs were seeking, which demonstrates the required combination of legal and scientific competence required of IP lawyers today.
ventureLAB offered me the opportunity to explore my interests in serving as a transactional lawyer in the IP niche. My experiences with the tenants regarding their ventures exposed the need to understand the business and innovative side of start-up entrepreneurialism in order to better serve IP legal needs. It is my hope to one day take this knowledge and apply it to my practice, and use it to better serve the innovators that populate the GTA.
Written by Tyson Carter. Tyson 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.