Osgoode and CIGI announce new partnership in fostering innovation

Giuseppina D’Agostino
Giuseppina D’Agostino

IP Osgoode, the celebrated intellectual property (IP) law and technology program at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and the International Law Research Program (ILRP) at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) announced on Friday a partnership to expand a student-focused innovation initiative to assist start-up companies, entrepreneurs and inventors with IP-related business issues.

The International Law Research Program at CIGI – an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance based in Waterloo, Ontario – will provide $100,000 to cover the salary for one year of an administrator for IP Osgoode’s Innovation Clinic as well as stipends for two Juris Doctor (JD) student research assistants.

Giuseppina D’Agostino

The research assistants will assist IP Osgoode’s Founder and Director, Professor Giuseppina D’Agostino, to critically evaluate Osgoode’s Innovation Clinic model as well as clinic models elsewhere, and identify potential opportunities for developing a network of clinics in Canada and beyond.

“We believe the time is right to take the Innovation Clinic to the next level,” D’Agostino said. “Things are working well here and we think they can also work elsewhere. Our goal is to help under-resourced inventors make their ideas come true and go to market. We are grateful to CIGI for helping us in this endeavour, and we’re delighted that this collaboration with CIGI will allow us to continue to offer our students a unique experiential learning opportunity.”

“Over the past two years, CIGI’s legal experts have been working to support the development of practical IP legal skills and give new entrepreneurs and innovators early access to IP legal support through student-run IP legal clinics at Communitech, one of Waterloo region’s prominent innovation centres, and LTEC at the University of Windsor,” said Bassem Awad, Deputy Director of CIGI’s innovation and IP law research. “This partnership with Osgoode provides an opportunity to support the study of a different kind of IP legal clinic which aims to provide start-ups with free access to IP legal advice from a major IP law firm and law students with front row practical IP legal training. We look forward to learning how effectively this model delivers IP awareness and IP legal training and whether the model is sustainable.”

Launched in 2010, the Osgoode Innovation Clinic was the first student-staffed IP legal clinic of its kind in Canada. The students, who are supervised and mentored by lawyers from Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, provide pro bono legal assistance to start-ups that cannot afford to pay legal costs. Obtaining just one patent in Canada typically costs about $20,000 from filing to final registration.

In its seven years of operation, the Innovation Clinic has attracted a broad range of clients including walk-ins from the general public, referrals from a number of external organizations, such as the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), ventureLAB, OCADU, and the York Entrepreneurship Development Institute, and through formal collaborations between York University’s Innovation York and the Lassonde School of Engineering’s Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) Program.

D’Agostino said the Innovation Clinic research dovetails with two of her current Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded research projects, entitled “Fostering Innovation in Canada through Intellectual Property Law” and “Triggering Innovation: Transnational Partnership for the Mobilization of IP Policy and Practices.”

The first project investigates the policies and practices inventors face at Canadian universities as they attempt to commercialize their inventions with the assistance of their university’s innovation or technology transfer offices. While the latter project investigates the legal implications of commercializing the intellectual property rights of public and private entities, and aims to tackle specific facets of commercialization.

“The Innovation Clinic is actually the petri dish for my research,” D’Agostino said. “The federal government’s investment in my research has helped to enable this partnership with CIGI, provide experiential learning opportunities for our students, and support under-resourced inventors and start-ups.”