Let’s talk about IP, baby

A little over a year ago, I read an article in The Globe and Mail by Jim Balsillie, the co-founder of Research in Motion, called “Canadians can innovate, but we’re not equipped to win.” The gist of it was that Canadians can’t succeed on the global stage in the new knowledge economy, in part, if not in whole, because this country does not have sufficient policies and infrastructure to help entrepreneurs make money from their ideas. “Canada’s current infrastructure and our public and private leadership do not foster the needed capacity to contend effectively in the complex, predatory and state-sponsored ideas ownership game,” wrote Balsillie.

He knows a thing or two about the knowledge economy and building a successful company, I mused. It got me thinking about the role of intellectual property and how the law, lack of laws, need for laws, and just generally how law and IP together should and do play a major role in the global economy and that it would be kind of interesting to examine it all in a bit more detail. And from that came the idea for this issue’s special report on intellectual property.

For me, it’s always been important to go into a story, or stories, with an idea of where you’re going but not so married to a point of view or thesis that you can’t change course if your sources have much better ideas (very often the case) or you realize what you thought was the story really wasn’t. This whole process is even more pronounced when you’re an editor who’s assigning stories to writers. So giving you a bit of an eye into the process in this case, I wanted to look at the idea of IP and the law from a few different directions. I’m not sure if I was on a flight somewhere or just dozing off one night, but either way those are the times my mind is most open and the idea of looking at how current IP laws are affecting knowhow from the past, will affect ideas in the future, and how we’re preparing for that future seemed a wide-open way to examine the issue.

The three feature stories in this issue only scratch the surface of what’s going on with intellectual property law — IP into the future, IP back to the future, and IP preparing for the future — both in Canada and globally, but I do hope they’ll make you think about the issue in different ways. One of the biggest debates I see is whether more or less protection either benefits or hinders innovation and the potential for both commercial and personal success. There are definitely arguments on both sides of the debate.

Canadian Lawyer has presented some thoughts from practitioners, innovators, business people, and academics, but by no means were we able to cover all points of view and ideas in the area. I find it all fascinating and urge readers to continue the discussion in the pages of our publication and web site. Got a theory, an idea, an argument, an amusing tale? Get in touch with me and let’s keep the conversation going.

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