On March 11, 2021, I had the opportunity to attend the 4th Annual IP Data & Research Conference, co-hosted by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). This event featured a lineup of esteemed speakers from the IP field to talk about what is happening in the IP community today. For the first time, the conference was held online; however, this did not prevent over 700 attendees from registering.
Simon Kennedy, the Deputy Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), kicked off the event with opening remarks. He emphasized the importance of bringing together IP members from academia, the private sector, and the public sector to foster an inclusive IP community, inspire innovative thinking, and work together to improve Canada’s intangible economy. Kennedy noted that events like this would help develop a more durable IP structure for Canada’s national and international interests.
Kennedy concluded by emphasizing the importance of developing IP knowledge and structures within the growing digitized economy. By expanding Canada’s IP infrastructure, our institutions would be better equipped to utilize data strategies for evidence-based decision-making in a variety of spheres, including economic policies, business initiatives, and national security programs.
Following Kennedy’s introductory remarks, Jim Balsillie, Founder of CIGI, gave a keynote speech. Balsillie offered a very critical analysis of the current state of Canada’s intangible economy. He argued that Canada is currently playing “catch up” after failing to invest in IP assets and structures. By missing the international shift from traditional to intangible markets, Canada is now economically and politically vulnerable, especially as a dependent importer of IP assets.
Canada is the only country that saw a decrease in patent applications relating to Artificial Intelligence between 2016 – 2018. Canada also saw a decline in research partnerships between Canadian institutions and foreign entities over the same period. Balsillie argues that these trends are not only detrimental to the Canada’s security and sovereignty, but also indicate clear shortcomings in the Canadian IP framework.
In his presentation, Balsillie emphasized Canada’s need to establishing a better framework and policy guidelines to protect IP and data in Canada. He argued that there is a clear lack of IP knowledge among businesses and the Government, which has led to the spread of misinformation and the development of ineffective IP frameworks. Balsillie bluntly states that real IP experts are needed in positions of power to update Canada’s policy infrastructure and institutions to better match the flexible, dynamic needs of the intangible economy.
IP and data are now the most valuable business, national, and international assets. They not only shape the economy, and public and private sphere, but are also the primary drivers in economic grown and national security. Furthermore, intangible stock assets in IP tie together policy considerations such as foreign investment, domestic economic development, and national security. In other words, intangible assets such as IP and data act as the new foundation of international political-economic status and stability. The world now lives in an era of intangibles, and this conference is one of many IP initiatives telling us that Canada’s digital transformation is overdue.
Adele Zhang is an IPilogue Contributing Editor interested in the intersection between IP law and sports, and technology.