614. Canada is pleased to co-sponsor this topic and would like to thank Japan for drafting the communication on the "IP and innovation" theme of "Making MSMEs competitive through inclusive protection of various IPs", as well as other Members that are sharing their views and information on this topic.
615. Canada has presented under this agenda item over a number of years, most recently at the February 2020 meeting of the TRIPS Council where we focused our attention on the importance of the trademarks to MSMEs' competitiveness, growth, and trade performance. We are pleased to continue that discussion by considering considerations across the various categories of IP and how they can serve as important tools for MSMEs' success and growth.
616. As my delegation has presented at past meetings of the Council, Canada has been implementing a National IP Strategy since 2018 with the overall objective of helping businesses, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators understand, protect, and access IP as key tools for growth. I will highlight a few of recent initiatives that are relevant to the themes set out in the communication.
617. As part of its IP Awareness and Education programme, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has launched an online IP Academy, featuring a suite of information materials and interactive learning resources for businesses and entrepreneurs. The IP Academy includes a recently-developed "massive open online course" on "Foundations of IP Strategy", developed by the Canada-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, with particular value for MSMEs. The IP Academy also includes a customizable web-based guide for MSMEs to develop their own tailored IP strategies. These two voluminous resources are too detailed to replicate through Canada's intervention but they both will help MSMEs grapple with many of the challenges of operating in a competitive business environment.
618. To give an example of subjects covered by the IP Academy's resources, IP ownership can be a key consideration when starting a new business As an overarching matter, the importance of conducting an audit of existing and potential assets by IP category– such as patents, copyright, trademarks, industrial designs, and trade secrets - is a potentially valuable, if often neglected, early step for MSMEs. Beyond an audit, MSMEs may consider further options, like seeking professional advice for an IP evaluation – an investment which can pay off when dealing with potential financial partners.
619. IP-based financing is another area of growing importance and potential for companies. Indeed, this is one of the potential benefits of the IP system for MSMEs covered by IP Academy. IP-based financing strategies include IP-backed loans, IP royalty securitization, which involves the pooling and selling of future IP-related income streams in exchange for immediate financing, and IP sale and license-back arrangements which can involve the sale of IP assets in exchange for immediate financing, while retaining the option of using the IP assets through a license-back arrangement and option of to buy back the ownership of the IP assets at the end of the license period. Important considerations exist when arranging IP-based financing, including the importance of maintaining confidentiality, especially for trade secrets and unpublished inventions or designs through nondisclosure agreements when dealing with prospective financial partners, as public disclosure may jeopardize the success of a patent or industrial design registration.
620. A number of financing considerations are also relevant to certain IP categories. For example, in the area of patents, to maximize the value of a company's patent portfolio, IP Academy recommends providing prospective financial partners with both quantitative and qualitative valuations of patent holdings and highlighting the importance of the features that the patents protect.
621. To demonstrate the value of trademarks IP Academy recommends that MSMEs show the strength of the marks through registration and market reputation, and willingness to enforce their protection to prevent the dilution of their brand.
622. Relevant to copyright, to help secure financing or attract financial partners, IP Academy advises that MSMEs are advised to highlight the value of their copyrighted material as an IP asset, such as through registration as a demonstration of ownership.
623. For industrial designs, IP Academy has suggested that MSMEs highlight the value of the aesthetic uniqueness of their products as well as any applications or registrations held, to showcase their business's capacity to develop unique products.
624. Finally, to maintain the confidentiality of trade secrets, MSMEs are advised by IP Academy to share the outputs of a protected asset with investors, rather than the trade secrets themselves. Highlighting the existence of trade secrets and their protection may boost the confidence of prospective financial partners.
625. The IP Academy resources cover further thematic areas, such as IP considerations across the various categories when operating a continued business such as IP asset management and prioritization, market monitoring and enforcement of rights, as well as when seeking to export goods or services or establishing a presence in foreign markets.
626. If any Members are interested in learning more about these resources, I would encourage you to do a web search for "IP Academy Canada". My delegation would also be pleased to share information on the development of these and other programmes under our national IP Strategy if other Members are considering similar initiatives to support MSMEs' competitiveness and growth by leveraging the IP system. Canada will continue to listen to similar initiatives undertaken by other Members with great interest, in the spirit of continuing to collectively leverage the TRIPS Council as a venue for policy exchange and learning.