Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm


The technological evolution of the railroad industry depends on IP

Intellectual property protects essential innovation as technological advancements in the railway industry accelerate. 

Throughout history, the railroad industry has provided a vital global service and will play a key role in the sustainable economy of the future. The projected increase in demand, both in passenger and freight services, will bring about necessary technological advancements in rail systems, making the need for IP more critical than ever. Modern, forward-looking companies will need to heavily invest in the research and development of new technologies for an increasingly integrated and complex rail system, including high-efficiency energy storage and braking, smart grid technologies, sensors, lightweight materials, improved information and digital communication systems for passengers, autonomous real-time monitoring systems, modifications for high-capacity infrastructure and rolling stock, automated safety intervention methods as well as technologies that lessen noise and vibration. These crucial innovations and investments need to be protected by strong and precise IP solutions that include patents, industrial designs, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Rail is the bedrock of the North American transportation system

Rail systems, deeply entrenched in Canadian and American history, will play an increasingly key role in the future. Due to the economic dependence on rail for the shipment of products and resources, including automobiles, lumber, grain, coal, iron ore, hazardous materials, and agricultural products such as fruit, nuts, vegetables, grain, and livestock, Canadian railways have continued to increase investment in their networks. 

With more than 46,000 kilometres of tracks, the rail transport industry in Canada generates approximately $10 billion per year, according to the Government of Canada. Rail freight accounts for 95% while the remaining 5% is from passenger and commuter rail services. In the U.S., freight demand is expected to double in the next 30 years to accommodate increased volumes, minimize congestion on highways, lower costs, and lesson environmental impacts. 

Technical expertise

With an interdisciplinary approach and a sophisticated understanding of the competitive landscape of rail system technology, we ensure our railway sector clients acquire, protect and leverage their IP assets and develop an IP strategy that supports their business objectives and corporate vision.

Our combination of extensive expertise and relevant advanced technical training, enable us to offer unparalleled service across all aspects of intellectual property, including IP strategy, procurement, due diligence, acquisition and licensing, and enforcement and defense.

Legal expertise

As the largest firm practising exclusively in intellectual property law in Canada, we have a unique focus on strategic and effective IP protection. For more than a century, Smith & Biggar has been a leader and a trusted advisor to some of the most innovative companies involved in the railway sector. 

Our distinguished track record and vast experience in IP litigation, including patent, industrial design, trademark and trade secret cases, is unmatched. Smart & Biggar has handled a significant share of Canada’s most commercially important and technically complex intellectual property law cases, many of which are leading Canadian precedents. Our team of litigators have appeared at the highest appellate levels of common law and civil law courts, including appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada on more than 50 occasions. Our litigators are highly skilled trial lawyers at the very top of the Canadian intellectual property field who understand the importance of practical business solutions. 

The global demand for freight and passenger rail solutions

Rail is the safest form of land transport and the growing demand for railway networks, both urban and suburban passenger lines and freight routes, is accelerating around the world. 

The global rail industry is worth an estimated $180 billion with more than 30% involving international trade. It is projected that rail will have a more prominent role in global direct and intermodal transport in the future, especially for dangerous goods, as it is faster than moving goods by container ships and more cost effective than air transport.

In the U.S., more than 40% of rail traffic involves imports or exports, according to the Association of American Railroads, while economically important freight corridors have been a key focal point in Europe and China for the international movement of goods. The opportunity for technological cooperation between countries on rail freight corridors is expected to exponentially increase the use of international rail over other forms of transportation. 

In addition to freight, there has been a surge in demand for intercity commuter rail systems as well as options for long-distance passenger and high-speed rail solutions. Regional and local rail will continue to be a focus for commuter transport in many countries around the world, particularly within cities. Emerging global trends, such as the concern for environmental impacts and carbon emission reduction, a focus on mobility for aging populations, and the less car-centric attitudes of younger generations, will present opportunities for innovative solutions for rail companies.

Unparalleled depth of experience in the railway industry

Our global list of clients includes startups, small to medium-sized companies, as well as some of the world’s largest innovators and enterprises. We collaborate with IP practitioners around the world to obtain protection for Canadian inventions and technology abroad, as well as for the protection of innovation in Canada. 

For more than a century, Smart & Biggar has been advising our Canadian and international clients on the fundamental technologies that drive growth in the railway sector. By providing unparalleled strategic IP counsel, our team safeguards and advances our clients’ competitive position in the industry and the global market.

Client Success