Epiq Systems, Inc.
Intellectual Property

Identifying gaps in fostering tech commercialization

Incubators and accelerators are helping start-up companies across the country, but Toronto intellectual property lawyer Erika Murray suggests more can be done to support tech entrepreneurs in their quest to innovate and commercialize.

“The company start-up process involves creativity and some kind of ingenuity,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com. “It starts with the idea, typically involving one or two people at the beginning. Then it requires a team, a network, and ultimately a community to foster and truly bring the innovation into the marketplace. So the idea is the spark, but there’s much more beyond that.

“And that’s where the incubators and accelerator programs, which are all over Canada, come into play.”

Murray, an associate with Bhole IP Law, is involved with Ryerson University, which is home to several sector-specific zones that foster innovation and is an advisor and mentor at the University of Toronto’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery.

As start-ups go through their development process and build the teams required to achieve success, Murray suggests they consider diversification in terms of the founder’s skills and the advisory board.

“The more diverse the team is the more varied the perspectives are on developing the idea. It creates better innovation and ultimately more chances of commercialization success,” she says. Having three advisors on-board with engineering, financial and marketing expertise, for instance, helps to ensure the company is progressing in all the right directions.

But as an IP lawyer who spends much of her time assisting early stage companies, Murray sees that in some areas, tech start-up companies aren’t getting the education and mentorship they require early on to protect their innovation and to flourish.

“One significant gap is understanding how an early-stage company can protect and also leverage their intangible knowledge-based assets as well as their branding and goodwill, which encompasses their intellectual property. That’s a big aspect of what we do and one that tech companies tend to ignore until the company is at much later stages,” she says.

Often entrepreneurs don’t consider whether their branding will have future trademark issues — or if and when they should be filing for patent protection prior to a public disclosure. This may be because they aren’t aware it’s an area that requires early considerations, but it could also simply be that some entrepreneurs see intellectual property strategy and protection as too complex.

Although there has been an acknowledgment by incubators around the need for assistance from advisors and mentors with various backgrounds, Murray believes more focused guidance in targeted areas for start-ups could help identify these gaps and address those issues through education and coaching.

Funding is another significant challenge for start-ups, Murray says.

One of the important things to learn at the beginning is to get comfortable with the uncertainties around not having money, she says. However, having no funding doesn’t mean that understanding intellectual property strategy and protection needs to be avoided.

There are steps companies can take on their own through the implementation of best practices, relying on new legal tech platforms, start-up legal packages and strategizing filings in order to raise capital. Further, from the government perspective, some countries have patent funding systems to bolster their national innovation intellectual property ecosystem through a countrywide patent fund, something Murray says is missing in Canada and could be a significant boost to the country’s rapidly growing start-up sector.

To Read More Erika Murray Posts Click Here
Lawyer Directory
BridgePoint Financial Services Inc.Toronto Lawyers AssociationMKD InternationalFeldstein Family LawLegal Print & Copy Inc.Fireman DayaJennifer ShuberLee & Associates