Law students from the IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic, in collaboration with lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP’s IP group, will offer pro bono one-to-one intellectual property advice at an upcoming Ask the Expert program.
The program takes place Sept. 25 and 26 and is part of the Accessibility Innovation Showcase, an official event of the 2017 Invictus Games that are being held in Toronto this year. The group of 10 students and five lawyers will offer expertise to creators of emerging accessibility and assistive device technologies.
“Accessibility and assistive device technology is definitely a growing area of IP and a new area of technology,” says Maya Medeiros, partner, patent agent and trademark agent at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada as well as an Osgoode Hall adjunct professor and the IP Innovation Clinic’s supervising lawyer.
“Wearable technologies more generally, and brain computer interface, and all of these really interesting emerging areas — to me, it makes it meaningful when you see the direct impact it has on peoples' lives. It’s not just another catchy app.”
Medeiros says these trade shows are “like a really cool science fair — you can go around and see the technology in use, which is exciting” and different from the more theoretical, abstract write-ups with which she usually works.
“I think it’s going to be really great for the students because they get to practise their interview skills as well,” Medeiros says.
“We did a big two-hour training session [on Monday] for those who are going to be involved, helping them with a script and getting their confidence up. That’s really the learning — you’re in there and you’re doing it. It’ll be great to see them in action.”
IP Osgoode founding director professor Giuseppina D’Agostino says the showcase is a great way “for our students to see how their work is relevant to the real world” and notes many of the clinic’s students want to make a difference through their work and see companies they help thrive, especially companies working on technologies that help people.
“This was an incredible opportunity. Even to see the government prioritizing this area, and from the grassroots there’s so much technology being invented that needs the resources and support to get to market and do the work it’s meant to do and help people.”
Norton Rose has been involved with the Innovation Clinic for the last two years, with six of its lawyers working with the clinic in various capacities. The firm has had its own innovation clinic operating for six years and, while the Osgoode clinic focuses on IP law exclusively, Norton Rose also practises business law and a mix it calls “IP commercialization” that includes things such as licence agreements and commercialization or collaboration agreements. Medeiros says the clinic’s students are often supported through the firm’s clinic as well, where they can give a broader scope of training.
“IP is becoming more and more relevant — I’ve been practising for over a decade and it’s interesting to see how mainstream it’s becoming,” says Medeiros. “Even the budget references it, and hearing the government speak about it so much, it’s tremendous.”
She calls the firm’s involvement with the Osgoode clinic a great way to “help educate some of these really key people, these early-stage lawyers” and see them get more IP awareness in a really practical way.
Although there is a recruitment perspective — last year, the firm brought in two of the clinic fellows as articling students, for example — Medeiros says the firm’s biggest driver is to support the local technology community, and the clinic is a great way to give law students the training they need.
The genesis of the clinic, which usually has about 20 to 30 students participating, was a partnership with the Ontario Centres of Excellence in 2010. The government would send clients to the clinic, but after a change-over of people at the OCE, “we stopped getting together in a formal way,” D’Agostino says.
“We have participated in events in the past, but this is a new one where we’re actually collaborating with the government again, and at a high level — it’s a first for that,” she says.
D’Agostino says a lot of the companies the clinic has worked with are doing well, noting that Norton Rose has retained three of them as clients. “They’re already at advanced stages where they’re able to pay the bills,” she says.
“It’s nice, as the company grows and their needs grow, that we can seamlessly connect them with other lawyers in our global network as needed,” says Medeiros.
The IP Osgoode Innovation Clinic, which is funded by support from the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University’s Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation and Innovation York, is somewhat of a startup itself, says D’Agostino. She says she has been talking to various government agencies about further support and collaboration, and the clinic just started a partnership with the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont., which enabled it to hire an administrator.
“The idea is to scale up our clinic,” she says. “We’re trying to have branches around Canada or a franchise model where we help similarly under-resourced clients in other jurisdictions.
“What we’re all about is to help the under-resourced inventors who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunities to make it to market. To quantify the amount of work, if we put it all in billable hours, we’ve crunched some numbers and it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so it’s pretty amazing.”