AI-powered IP Innovation for Underrepresented Canadian Communities
On April 26, 2021, the theme of World IP Day 2021 is “IP and SMEs: Taking your ideas to market”. Since I founded the IP Innovation Clinic in 2010, the Clinic has helped countless innovators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses to do exactly that. Our students have provided basic legal information to clients who otherwise would not have any access to it. To date, the Clinic has subsidized over $2,000,000CDN of legal fees that would otherwise have been paid by those without access to resources. This past year, the Clinic has expanded its impact through the recently launched IP Innovation ChatBot, a free legal chatbot which uses a vast database of credible IP information to answer users’ initial IP questions and guide them to the type of legal help they need. This is only the beginning of the ChatBot’s story.
In a critical time of Covid-19 isolation, I aim to ensure that the IP Innovation ChatBot’s content is accessible and attuned to the unique realities of underrepresented communities in Canada’s intellectual property (IP) innovation ecosystem; namely, women and indigenous peoples. Having assisted clients in these underrepresented groups in the IP Innovation Clinic, and through my own research and writing in this area, I have seen first-hand the distinct struggles these groups confront in the traditional IP innovation ecosystem and the distinct challenges they face to bring their innovations to society; from being silenced in their ideation phase to lacking adequate resources and know-how to develop IP strategies attuned to their unique needs and perspectives.
This AI-powered initiative has been launched thanks to the Canadian government’s National IP Strategy, and supports its mandate to increase IP awareness and education by making IP information more accessible. These learnings can easily be applied to other areas of the law.
The ChatBot has been realized due to visionary IP Innovation Clinic champions backing our work, Innovation York at York University, Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI) at the very outset and Bergeron Entrepreneurs Science and Technology (BEST) Program at Lassonde School of Engineering and Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) Canada LLP. Indeed, the technical and legal expertise of Partner, Maya Medeiros, and Al Hounsell at NRF, and our Osgoode JD team of students led by Ryan Wong, class of 2021. It is also an honour to work closely with other leaders in the federal government such as the Konstantinos Georgaras, CEO (Interim) at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and Jennifer Miller, Erin Campbell and their teams at Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), who understand and work hard to overcome the challenges Canadian innovators face.
I previously uncovered the various challenges that underrepresented communities face in the IP innovation system and how grassroots initiatives, such as IP legal clinics, can assist in From Start up to Scale Up: A report on the Innovation Clinic in Canada and in more recent work to use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to build an IP Innovation ChatBot to make IP law more accessible. Going forward, I plan to expand on this foundational and empirical work to build the IP Innovation Clinic and the ChatBot to make the IP innovation ecosystem more accessible.
Ultimately, in an era of increasing technological disruption and lingering societal inequality and pandemic isolation, I hope to influence future legal education and make our justice system accessible to all Canadians.
Indeed, AI applications, including legal chatbots, use machine learning to make the law more understandable, manageable, useful, accessible, predictable, and efficient. Legal chatbots increase access to justice through their wider reach and lower costs. Many underrepresented communities receive either inadequate or no legal help at all. Technology currently cannot provide complex legal advice, but AI-powered online legal services can cost-effectively deliver accessible, basic legal help. Some, like our IP Innovation ChatBot, do so for free. Chatbots can thus democratize access to basic legal services for the underserved, and therefore deserve greater study and adoption.
Since its January 29, 2021 launch, the IP Innovation ChatBot has been a magnet for public use. Several members of the legal community have already inquired to learn how to emulate it. With the information from these analyses, I plan to design and build an enhanced, interactive, dynamic, and accessible portal powered by next-generation artificial intelligence operating on big data curated by our pioneering IP Innovation ChatBot.
The ChatBot will remain a free, sophisticated, and smart online tool, driven by AI and designed to cater to underrepresented and disenfranchised innovators. It will soon house key IP resources and information, leading updates, and links to Canadian and international government IP resources. The ChatBot’s scaled-up national platform will analyse its amassed archive of data and identify common IP knowledge translation problems to devise and anticipate solutions. Adapted for the COVID-19 era and beyond, the ChatBot will support the next generation of lawyers, educate and stimulate innovation from underrepresented communities, provide start-up entrepreneurs with access to IP resources, and be the public’s go-to tool for independent and impartial IP knowledge.
Prof Pina D’Agostino is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and Founder and Director of IP Osgoode, the IPilogue, the IP Innovation Clinic, and officially since January 2021 the recently launched IP Innovation Clinic ChatBot.