The Lawyer's Daily is now Law360 Canada. Click here to learn more.

Woman with questions

Innovation scan as business intelligence tool

Thursday, August 26, 2021 @ 10:53 AM | By Oksana Romanov

Oksana Romanov %>
Oksana Romanov
As part of my summer internship, I attended a webinar Patents as a Business Intelligence Tool presented by Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit research and training organization. The speakers included Martin Couillard, senior director of life sciences and principal of Axelys; Jesse Vincent-Herscovici, VP of Mitacs business development; Kendrick Lo, innovation officer of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO); and Pierre Des Lierres, director of operations and marketing of WattByWatt Inc.

There were several trends to highlight: (1) Canada is moving towards a data-driven economy, (2) intellectual property (IP), intangible assets, such as brands, software and data are becoming increasingly valuable, and (3) formal IP innovation may not be appropriate for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

To clarify, there are two ways in which SMEs can innovate: formal and informal innovation. According to a literature review by Bronwyn H. Hall et al., formal innovation includes patents, trademarks, registered designs and copyright, while informal innovation covers “a range of ‘alternative’ or informal appropriation mechanisms, such as secrecy, confidentiality agreements, lead time, or complexity.” Having registered rights to exclude others (exception for copyright) may seem like an intuitive thing to do. However, “in practice, the invention and innovation do occur even if firms cannot access, or choose not to use, the IP system.”

Given the trends outlined above, SMEs should consider using an innovation scan as a business intelligence tool to decide whether they need to access services provided by intellectual property agents who specialize in either patents or trademarks. CIPO hosts a directory of all registered IP agents on its website. CIPO also provides a general idea about the fees for services and how to become an IP agent.

What is a patent?

Patents protect your intellectual property. A patent is a legal definition and a legal document that describes certain exclusive rights for your invention. According to the CIPO definition, “through a patent, the government gives you, the inventor, the right to stop others from making, using or selling your invention from the day the patent is granted to a maximum of 20 years after the day on which you filed your patent application.”

New patents come out every week. To stay up to date, a business should create a weekly innovation alert on companies, research centres and products.

What is an innovation scan?

Intellectual property is an intangible asset. For SMEs to grow, that is, to increase the production of goods and services, they need to find a way “to commercially exploit [their] knowledge” or invention. Therefore, identifying and formalizing intangible assets is an opportunity for growth. Yet, formal IP innovation may not be appropriate for all innovations and all businesses. For instance, SMEs need to determine if they need and can afford to protect their intangible assets.

An innovation scan is a set of queries or questions. Firstly, to come up with those questions, SMEs need to describe what new idea they have that meets the needs of their consumer. Secondly, they need to determine whether it makes sense to invest in this idea. Lastly, they need to search the Internet, free and pay-for-services databases to figure out whether there is a niche that they can occupy and whether they should protect their invention from any potential IP infringements. This may seem like a self-evident and simple idea. The cost-saving trick is that you do the scan before going to an IP lawyer.

Finally, do not forget about your current and potential clients. Try to investigate what opinions they have on the subject and how likely they are to accept something new. There are many think tanks out there that provide this information on their website.

Ultimately, the advanced step would be to put an innovation scan in an app. That way, SMEs can have some business intelligence available at their fingertips.

Oksana Romanov is a 2L student and a member ofthe inaugural class of the Lincoln Alexander School of Law. She is completing her summer internship at Buzaker Law Firm Professional Corporation funded in part by the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship. To learn more about the author, you can visit her LinkedIn profile.

Photo credit /  Color_life ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

Interested in writing for us? To learn more about how you can add your voice to The Lawyer’s Daily, contact Analysis Editor Peter Carter at or call 647-776-6740.