Ontario law schools and Mitacs partner to provide Intellectual property strategy internships

Under the guidance of a professor, law students develop an intellectual property strategy for SMEs

Ontario law schools and Mitacs partner to provide Intellectual property strategy internships
Dr. John Hepburn is CEO of Mitacs.

Mitacs, a national innovation organization that solves business challenges with research solutions from post-secondary institutions, has partnered with Ontario law schools to provide intellectual property strategy internships for law students.

Mitacs CEO Dr. John Hepburn says the intellectual property strategy internship is structured to ensure students work on real problems and provide real solutions under the supervision of the law school faculty. Although law students get summer law jobs, he says the intellectual property strategy internship creates a unique opportunity because students solve specific problems within a particular company.

"It's a higher-level experience, it's more focused, it's more purpose driven," he says. "They gain the non-academic experience and training that they need to be successful in their future career."

Mitacs received funding from the Ontario government to partner with Ontario law schools on the intellectual property strategy internships to support small and medium-sized businesses unable to afford lawyers. Hepburn says that the organization creates internships on joint innovation partnerships between academy institutions, small and medium-sized businesses, and non-profit organizations.

"There must be a research component at some level in our internships and there must be a partnership between the academic institution and the industry partner."

In partnership with Osgoode Hall Law School, Mitacs retained first-year law student, Androu Waheeb as an intern for Toronto-based neurotechnology company, Interaxon Inc, to help progress the company's IP portfolio and help standardize processes to support growth. Under the supervision of a law professor, Hepburn says Waheeb helped standardize electronic documents, making it easier for employees to complete standard legal documents. He also helped advance the company's privacy policy and draft intellectual property claims.

Mitacs goal is to increase innovation in Canada's specialty industry through student work and integrated learning opportunities, particularly in small and medium business enterprises, Hepburn says.

As businesses grapple with the impacts of the pandemic, he says Mitacs is using internships to simultaneously help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses grow and innovate while assisting high-skilled students to secure valuable employment opportunities despite a challenging job market caused by COVID-19.

Hepburn says the technology sector weathered the economic pressures of the pandemic and is more severely in need of talent. For companies to survive, they need to innovate, he says, and Canada does not have a great track record on innovation in industries, not for profits.

People with high skill levels are in high demand, and he says Mitacs addresses both issues by bringing people into the workforce through integrated learning opportunities and targeting marginalized communities with fewer opportunities to enter high-skilled professions.

Integrated learning opportunities are crucial to retaining students in the Canadian job market. For example, Hepburn says if a Canadian student with no experience is offered a job from Google, the student works for Google and develops the U.S job market, but if they have experience working with an innovative company in Canada, they'll stay in the country.

"We create demand for the students by convincing small and medium enterprises that it's worthwhile working with these highly qualified students and we also make the students aware of the opportunities in Canada and provide them with the skills they need to succeed."

The internship is still a relatively small program limited to the six law schools in Ontario, but Mitacs hopes to expand the internship, says Hepburn.

"To do that we need support from other governments, but the Ontario government is supporting it and so we're enthusiastic about it. we'd like it to grow."

Mitacs receives funding from the federal and provincial governments plus Yukon territory. The organization was established 21 years ago and is on to deliver over 20,000 internships this year.

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