Recently in Report on Business, General Electric Co. CEO Jeffrey Immelt outlined his company’s ambitious plan to enter the Canadian energy marketplace and make the oil sands globally competitive in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
He even suggested his company could take a co-operative approach to the management of their intellectual property rights (IPR) and has spearheaded a partnership with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). GE became a corporate giant through a brilliant strategy of internal IPR innovation, as well as IPR acquisition, followed by patent protection when selling goods and services globally.
We can be sure that the COSIA engagement is coherent with GE’s global IPR strategies, and is designed to add to the company’s admirable success in creating a market cap of more than $260-billion (U.S.). But how do our entrepreneurs, and in turn our country, prosper from these very same resources that GE aims to profit from?
One such approach worth consideration is the creation of a sovereign patent pool (SPP) for our investments in innovation. Patent pools are structured entities that manage ownership interests in patents with a view to achieving a return by monetizing those patents through sale, use of security interest, licensing or litigation.
An SPP could serve as both a defensive and offensive play for Canada’s innovative firms. The pool can protect small- and medium-sized technology firms from both larger global players and patent trolls, who use litigious tactics to corner their prey. From an offensive perspective, an SPP could enable Canadian companies to scale up and compete globally. Patent clusters could be formed around sectors to reduce licensing costs for Canadian firms in their infancy or as they seek to scale globally.
In Canada, our national economic priorities include prosperity generated from our rich natural resources. Given the current political context, which squarely places economics and environmental viability at odds, a focus on innovation is essential if we are to maintain our standard of living.
Regardless of GE’s co-operative rhetoric surrounding its interest in Canadian oil sands, national economic competitiveness is alive and well. Canadian entrepreneurs are well educated, well financed and they have the drive to compete globally. If they are to take the next step – to grow from innovative, small and medium enterprises into globally competitive companies – they need an ecosystem that protects their ideas to the magnitude that we currently protect our natural resources.