Ask Us Anything series: IP Essentials

Posted on Wednesday, May 17th, 2023

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David Hobson lives at the intersection of technology transfer and entrepreneurship. He describes himself as a concierge that connects researchers with the resources they need for their research to make an impact in the real world. In December, David joined the Ask Us Anything session to share what entrepreneurs need to know about Intellectual Property (IP).

IP refers to creations of the mind, including inventions and artistic works. There are two main categories of IP. Commercial IP includes drugs, materials, machines, and methods. Artistic IP includes music, literature, software, and paintings. IP can be legally defined as intangible assets that can be bought and sold, though the exact definition varies by country. IP protection ensures that creators have legal rights over their work and can prevent others from infringing on their creations.

There are four main types of intellectual property protection: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Each type of protection has its own set of rules and regulations, and some may be more suitable for a specific project than others.

“Why should you care about intellectual property?”, asked David. “Well, if you're in the academic world, it'll get you more grant money. If you're in the business world or startup world, it will get you investment. If you don't have any IP, it's extremely hard to get anybody to invest in your company. You can run your company anyway you want, but intellectual property is a bit like an insurance package where you can maintain your competitive advantage and keep the competitors at bay.”

Per Canadian IP law, the inventor own the IP to anything they create, unless there is another contract or agreement in place whereby the creator was hired to create the IP for someone else. The same rules apply to the University of Guelph – researchers own the IP for their work, provided it is appropriately reported. From there, researchers can decide to partner with a company to bring the project to market, distribute it freely in the public domain, or have an intermediary organization such as the Research Innovation Office manage the licensing of the project. For projects managed by the Research Innovation Office, 50% of the profits return to the researcher and the staff can assist with the costly and time-intensive patenting process. Most patents cost between $30,000-100,000 per patent.

David emphasised the role of timeliness in patent success. “It's not about who invents it first, it's about who puts their paperwork in first. That will end up getting the first patent on something new. One of the biggest problems is that people don't search for who's already filing patents and who's in the patent space. So, before you consider filing a patent or copyright or trademark, you have to do a really thorough search to make sure so you know who your competition is and what are the chances of you actually getting a patent.”

Curious about the patent potential of your research? Reach out to David Hobson and the Technology Transfer team for a consultation. Wondering how to turn your research into a successful startup? The New Venture Creation team can help – contact Kelly Zeigler, New Venture Creation Project Coordinator, at about your ideas or about the Ask Us Anything series.

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