How to jumpstart intellectual property protection in Canada’s artificial intelligence ecosystem

How to jumpstart intellectual property protection in Canada's artificial intelligence ecosystem?

Canadian IP Voices is a podcast where we talk about intellectual property (IP) with a range of professionals and stakeholders across Canada and abroad.

In episode 4 of IP Voices, Todd Bailey, chief intellectual property officer at Scale AI, helps us navigate through the complex challenge of building an artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem in Canada that goes beyond just developing this cutting-edge technology. Read on (and listen in) to find out what steps Canadian innovators can take to leverage and protect their AI innovations.

Canada has 5 technology superclusters, all closely tied to the strategic use of intellectual property. These superclusters are not-for-profit entities that invest federal funds in collaborative technology projects in Canada, matched dollar for dollar with investments from companies participating in those projects.

Scale AI is one of these superclusters. Based in Montreal, it funds projects across Canada aimed at solving Canadian supply chain problems using artificial intelligence, or AI. Artificial intelligence refers to computer programs that have been trained using specialized algorithms to make data-based predictions.

"One of the problems we need to solve is how to empower Canadian innovators to recognize and prioritize their IP and really put it to work for their business."

Simply put, protecting digital IP is more relevant than ever before. And it clearly is good business practice. It's important to remember that protecting digital IP is not that different from protecting other forms of IP assets.

The first element Todd points out is that IP should be thought of as a business tool, not as a legal tool. And it is one that business owners need to have a general understanding of. Businesses must own the decision-making process in order to really benefit from their IP because their IP brings them the greatest value when it's well aligned with their business strategy.

"If you operate a business that's innovating, but you're not protecting your IP, your days may already be numbered….If you don't have protected IP and an IP plan, you just have fewer options for survival. It's really that simple."

The second element Todd raises is that protecting IP doesn't have to be expensive. There are ways to prioritize and control costs. These IP costs are actually investments owners are making in the future of their business to improve their odds for success.

"You really need to appreciate why you need IP before it can really help you. Checking the box won't do it."

The third element Todd points out is that businesses need an IP plan. Some people call that an IP strategy or an IP roadmap, but ultimately an IP plan highlights concrete actions and planning.

"The IP plan helps businesses think out the approach ahead of time so they can be proactive."

According to Todd, one of the biggest IP challenges in the AI ecosystem is a persistent misconception that AI can't be patented. However, it definitely can be! According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), globally there are roughly 300,000 AI-related inventions either patented or in the patent process of being patented.

So why does the notion that AI can't be patented still persist? In Todd's view, this is one of the biggest IP challenges facing Canada's AI ecosystem. But he sees signs of progress and reasons to believe in a bright future for AI in Canada everywhere.

Check out Todd's blog, IP without jargon, for some straight talk on IP and steps for protecting yours.

Additional resources

WIPOs conversations on IP and AI

WIPO technology trends 2019 – Artificial intelligence

Processing artificial intelligence within the Canadian patent landscape (CIPO report)

How to manage your intellectual property rights in Canada (CIPO)

Guide to planning your IP strategy (CIPO)


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