While Canadian businesses are suddenly faced with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, it is a critical time to review and develop intellectual property assets, pursue new business opportunities, review benchmark versus competitors and maintain agility and creative genius. The upcoming economic recovery will provide good opportunities for cutting-edge businesses and those who properly protect their intellectual property assets.
What To Do While Waiting for the Recovery
While waiting for the expected recovery to kick in, we offer valuable tips to manage funds and use time efficiently with regard to the often neglected aspects of intellectual property and innovation.
1. Be vigilant in protecting your intellectual property. Do not allow infringers to imitate you and rob market shares with impunity. Be aware that it is common for infringers to become active in periods of economic crisis and to find ways to circumvent protective measures. Keep in mind that cease and desist letters drafted by specialized lawyers are often effective and inexpensive. During difficult times, few infringers will want to be the subject of urgent provisional remedies before the courts;
2. Above all, do not publicly disclose your ideas before protecting your intellectual property. For example, be aware that you can lose your exclusive rights to inventions by simply doing market testing before filing your patent application. If you must disclose innovations for financing purposes, for example, please ensure that you have obtained confidentiality and non-competition undertakings;
3. Within your organization, ask your creative team and researchers to focus their creative energy by developing and launching, fast-tracked projects on ideas with strong economic potential that will propel your business in the recovery phase and thereafter;
4. Maximize your intellectual property protection budgets by focusing your spending in growth markets as well as new products and services, by disregarding or selling patents of lower value, thereby freeing up sums that can be used for existing projects with greater economic potential. Ask your patent agents for advice on how to defer certain expenses (taking advantage of international treaties) while also being strategic regarding international applications in export markets;
5. Remember that when it comes to intellectual property, it is first come, first served. Do not make the mistake of waiting and omitting to apply to register your patent as soon as possible. Patent applications must be filed, even during a crisis situation. We are there to help you.
6. Take advantage of government programs that provide assistance to innovative companies. Make the most of this period by obtaining information and filing your applications. Here are a few examples:
- Federal: Numerous Programs are Available
- There is a wide-range of financing programs offered by the Government of Canada1, such as the Xpansion Loan of the Business Development Bank of Canada providing financing so that you can apply for a patent.2 Consider the CanExport program allowing Canadian innovators who aim to commercialize technology to access a maximum of $75,000 in funding to establish new R&D collaborations with foreign partners to co-develop, validate or adapt their technologies for commercialization.3 There is also the National Research Council of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). This program aims to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses develop and commercialize technologies.4 You should not forget the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program (SR&ED).5 The IDEaS program for innovations in defence and security should also be considered (the government commits to investing $1.6 billion in this program over the next 20 years),6 as well as the ExplorIP program enabling businesses to search for opportunities to obtain licences from public sector patent holders.7
- Quebec: New "Incentive Deduction for the Commercialization of Innovations" (IDCI)
- In addition to the existing incentive measures with regard to innovating and protecting innovations,8 the Quebec government introduced a new "incentive deduction for the commercialization of innovations" (DICI) in the budget tabled on March 10, 2020. Accordingly, any business involved in developing and commercializing a patented invention in Quebec that encures R&D costs in the province will be entitled to a reduced tax rate of 2% on the income derived from exploiting its patent, which is 7.5% lower than the general corporate income tax rate.9
- Programs in Other Provinces:
- Programs promoting innovation and patent protection also exist in other provinces.10 For example, there is Ontario's Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC),11 Alberta's Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative (ASBIRI),12 as well as British Columbia's Startup in Residence (STIR) program13 and the programs of the BC Innovation Council (BCIC).14
All of these initiatives will allow you to take a fresh look at your business, capitalize on your innovative strengths and position your business for recovery and success when the economy reopens.
9. Budget 2020 du gouvernement du Québec : QuébecInnove se réjouit de l'importante place faite à l'innovation (only available in French)
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.