Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm

For World IP Day 2024, we asked three of our practitioners three questions, all related to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s 2024 theme of IP and the SDGs: Building our common future with innovation and creativity

Read on to learn what Principal Lei Liu and Associates Chen Li and Meika Ellis have to say.

How does IP contribute to the social, environmental and economic benefit of the globe?

Meika: If IP is properly owned and used it stimulates creation of innovative technologies and business models, fueling business success. Strong business success provides support, opportunity, and resources to communities, contributing to economic growth.

If IP systems acknowledge Indigenous legal traditions as a means of protecting Indigenous knowledge, which has long been misappropriated and misused by others, I think IP would have a stronger role in providing social and environmental benefits.

Lei: Climate tech creates intangible assets and knowledge-based technology. IP is a pivotal strategy for protecting and commercializing these assets, which will spur further innovation.

How can IP protect Traditional Knowledge & Cultural Expressions (TK&CE) in a way that ensures traditional ideas and ways are not misappropriated or misrepresented in the public sphere?

Meika: There is no simple answer. Current IP systems in Canada have no reliable mechanisms to prevent misappropriation or misuse of TK&CE. 

We do, however, have an opportunity to amend our various IP acts and regulations to include clauses that provide protection of Indigenous words and designs, clauses that explicitly acknowledge that owners and holders of TK&CE have the right to the protection of that knowledge, and/or clauses providing specific remedies to Indigenous creators, businesses, knowledge holders and communities, enabling them to assert their rights in their knowledge (see New Zealand’s legislation for protecting IP with a Maori cultural element and Kenya’s Protection of TK&CE Act)

Even without legislative change, there are innovative ways to protect TK&CE beyond the borders of our IP systems. One example is through agreements that incorporate Indigenous legal traditions and Western legal systems, as was done for the protection of the rights in the Witness Blanket (see Winnipeg Human Right’s Museum and Carey Newman).

How can IP influence the future of medical innovation in a way that promotes well-being and equality for all?

Chen: I think IP influences medical innovation in two major ways. First, IP protection makes it attractive to invest in medical research and development, which is costly and known for its high failure rate. With adequate policies in place and increased collaboration between private and public sectors, there is potential for IP rights to steer innovation towards challenging areas such as rare and neglected diseases. Second, the disclosure of innovative technology through granting of patents, for example, facilitates knowledge sharing and stimulates further advances in medical innovation.       

How can IP spur clean tech innovation to create more sustainable and healthier communities across the world?

Lei: I would first say that the term “climate tech” is now more commonly used than the term “clean tech”. Climate tech touches every industry – from carbon capture to electric vehicles, food and beverage, recycled materials, and pharmaceuticals.

Further, every climate tech organization has a vested interest in protecting its innovations and IP. The better protected their IP, the more incentive there is to keep investing in innovation.

When it comes to developing countries, there needs to be more global cooperation in tech transfers to facilitate broader adaptation of important climate tech.

What do you hope for the future of IP?

Meika: I hope for more inclusive IP regimes in Canada that are not only accessible to Indigenous creators, businesses, and communities, but are mindful of the deeply rooted Indigenous legal traditions that protected Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions long before any of the IP regimes in Canada were even considered.

Chen: It wasn’t until my second year of graduate studies that I was introduced to the concept of IP and its relevance to my research. When I did learn about IP, it sparked a lifelong interest. I hope that institutions will make an effort to introduce IP into the curriculum earlier on so as to raise early awareness about IP and the protection of IP rights regardless of the field of study.

Lei: Encouraging global adaptation of climate tech, while ensuring that innovators’ interests are protected via IP.

Thank you to our practitioners for sharing their thoughts. If you have questions about the article, you can reach out to any one of them by following the links below.