With the rapidly changing environment and daily addition of approximately 200000 humans to the planet, the world’s economies are moving toward Net Zero Emissions by the year 2050. Canada, with many other G7 nations, plans to adapt and transition to a Net-Zero Emission economy to avoid the catastrophic effects of a warming climate. Accordingly, it is crucial for Canadian companies to evolve with the times and align themselves with the Government’s upcoming schemes & policies. The 4th Annual IP Data & Research Conference addressed the 2021 Economic Reality of Climate Tech in view of IP and Data, growth strategies in the Clean Technology Patent Landscape & Innovation Assets Collective (Canada’s Patent Collective), and the implications of the “tech” in cleantech.
a) 2021 Economic Reality of Climate Tech in view of IP and Data
Cleantech is Canada’s fastest growing industry and a hotbed for Canadian entrepreneurs in cleantech innovation. Cleantech overlaps with many industries and generates opportunities to disrupt the market in climate change mitigation technologies (CCMT), applied material, green chemistries, green technologies, electric vehicles, low carbon and net zero buildings, recycling and renewable technologies, and photovoltaic energy sectors. At the Conference, Leah Lawrence quoted that Cleantech is outpacing other industries, including the artificial intelligence sector. In Ontario, the electric power generation, transmission and distribution sector, inclusive of new cleantech energy storage companies, such as NRStor and Hydrostor, has seen a 9.6 % growth in employment from 2009 to 2018. However, it is captivating that the growth of these sectors largely relies upon the collection of datasets. The term “data” is omnipresent in patent claims across sectors, globally and in Canada. A clean tech company, Semios, has created a crop harvest remote control which assesses and optimises bugs’ and insects’ responses, diseases, and plant health conditions in actual time through data collection and predictive analysis. It disrupts and eliminates insect pheromone mating using wireless networks in the most difficult of plantation environments. This project was sponsored in part by the Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). SDTC has contributed significant work towards the Government’s vision of a clean & green economy.
b) Growth Strategies in the Clean Technology Patent Landscape & Innovation Assets Collective (Canada’s Patent Collective)
For entrepreneurs to gain some monopoly over their inventions and innovations and disrupt the cleantech space, it is crucial for them to understand the primary importance of “commercialisation” and “freedom to operate” in the world. In Canada, only 7.7 % of active assets patent filing are Canadian owned inventions. Most of Canada’s patent owners are from the United States (37%), Japan, Germany, and France (each at ~8%), which is alarming. In view of this, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has created many pilot programs to incentivise entrepreneurs to promote and support their clean technology inventions and innovation. CIPO has expedited patent examination services for Cleantech innovators. Moreover, they have partnered with the WIPO Green network, a marketplace platform, to build commercial relationships with cleantech entrepreneurs and customers. They also created an Intellectual Property (IP) analytic database via CCMT and Innovation Assets Collective (IAC). This initiative intends to support Canada’s data driven clean energy industry to foster its IP growth, generate value, build influence in the global market, and increase its rights in IP infringement suits. The major hindrance for cleantech entrepreneurs is funding to research and develop the invention. However, STDC and IAC offer many creative support systems and have generated IP Hedge funds, IP Credits, and merit-based awards for companies. Further, to mitigate the freedom to operate challenge, the IAC has fashioned an IP intelligence & prior art library to have a collective aspect which will consequently protect them from low quality patent assertions, navigate through patent pooling by acquiring third party rights, and working around having a landscape to operate freely without the deterrence of litigation.
c) What will be the implications of the “tech” in cleantech?
The reports of 2017 suggest 850 Canadian firms have engaged with the clean technology sector. Hence, the implication of “tech” in cleantech is a pertinent discussion which usually arises from commoditisation, standardisation, globalisation, and market competitors. While conducting their due diligence, investors primarily emphasize and question potential companies about “whether there is any IP owned”, “how many IP” and “whether they are protected or disclosed widely”. Further, they also prefer Canadian companies for many reasons. While Canada has been a hub and spoke for nuclear plants, oil and gas, mining, pipelines and transmission lines among many other sectors, its strongest pursuit has not been cleantech so far i.e. solar plants or telecommunication sector, especially after Nortel collapse. Mike Andrade, CEO of Morgan Solar, advised that the cleantech present or potential entrepreneur/innovators should be aware of the cautionary tales (IBM loses its innovation for $1.5 billion to GlobalFoundries) in the market and their IP rights.
In conclusion, the good news is that support from the government, CIPO, and other institutions can help Canadian entrepreneurs to better manage their IP portfolios and invest in the cleantech market. Canada’s commitment to accelerate its reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 will forge many opportunities for cleantech SMEs and large entrepreneurs.
Written by Aishwerya Kansal, IPilogue Contributor. Aishwerya is pursuing Master’s in Law in International Business Laws at Osgoode Hall Law School, and she is also an IP Innovation Clinic Fellow.