What part of your work do you find the most rewarding and why?
For me, it’s all about working to support the larger ecosystem and driving impacts that will move the needle on Canada’s global IP position.
I have spent over 15 years of my career working as the IP lead in companies of various shapes and sizes, developing and executing their IP strategies. What I have found is that, regardless of whether the company was a start-up, scaling, or if they already had large-scale revenue, most did not have an IP strategy that was integrated into the business – it always sat off to the side. Much of my work involved integrating best practices into the business and changing the mindset to view IP assets as business tools and levers. At Innovation Asset Collective (IAC), I am continuing this focus on a larger scale.
How would you characterise the current IP ecosystem in Canada?
In 2018, the government of Canada announced a comprehensive IP strategy to help Canadian businesses, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators to understand, protect and access intellectual property. In my opinion, this triggered a shift in the ecosystem and a renewed focus on building the IP skillsets of business leaders. Traditionally, IP education was not designed for business leaders and entrepreneurs as the end users, nor was it designed to drive SME growth to scale. Today, organisations like IAC are leading the development of a targeted set of training materials to equip companies in building IP strategies and commercialisation models to create sustainable differentiation increasing freedom to operate in global markets. Through access to a variety of different resources, the training that supports an effective IP strategy can be broken down into smaller pieces and tackled bit by bit.
IAC caters to diverse business needs by offering customised, business-centric IP training. The programme provides asynchronous self-study modules and toolkits for companies to leverage IP resources at their own pace, coupled with virtual and in-person workshops and office hours for confidential, hands-on support to address specific questions and decision points that they may face.
Do you think that trade secrets are overlooked as a method of IP protection? If so, how can companies remedy this?
In most jurisdictions, there is no official registration system in place when it comes to trade secrets. For this reason, trade secrets are often overlooked as an intangible asset. There are some basic steps companies can take to remedy this, such as:
- building integrated IP strategies that encompass all forms of intangible assets that add value to a business;
- developing in-house standard practices and procedures to document, identify and capture trade secrets in a company; and
- encouraging education and training of all employees in an organisation, instilling the right culture and mindset to understand the value that intangible assets – including trade secrets – bring to the company.
What common mistakes do companies make when commercialising their IP assets in Canada – and how can they avoid them?
Without a well thought-out IP strategy that aligns with the companies’ business strategy, commercialisation of IP assets is often carried out in a siloed and haphazard fashion. Ensuring that a degree of IP literacy is maintained by business leaders is a key component in driving success.
Far too often in my career, I have seen companies rushing to develop and file IP assets without considering how they will be utilised by the business. This often results in high costs for assets that don’t achieve the intended business value, leading instead to an inability to commercialise. When IP assets don’t protect the essence of a company’s differentiation in the market, more IP-savvy competitors and large multinationals with sophisticated IP roadmaps can quickly fence in the true business value and leave the company without a viable path forward.
Building an IP strategy doesn’t need to have a big price tag, but it does require time and thoughtful consideration, particularly in the early days. Having a roadmap to assist in building an IP strategy gives companies a starting point and guidance through a series of questions and considerations. In the end, an IP strategy is a tool that enables sound decision-making when it comes to leveraging and commercialising assets.
In my role at IAC, I have championed the development of an integrated approach to learning that enables business leaders to develop and maintain solid, scalable, forward-thinking IP and data strategies.
Vice President, IP Strategy
Erin Pisko has spearheaded numerous initiatives that advocate for the importance of IP strategy across the innovation ecosystem. She teaches effective IP strategies, breaking things down into series of manageable tasks to support a company’s ability to grow. With a career that spans decades in roles across the innovation ecosystem, Ms Pisko guides companies in capitalising on their initial discovery to build Canadian success stories and leverage the power of intellectual property.