Expanding intellectual property within Canada’s plant-based foods sector

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Intellectual property is one of several factors influencing Canada’s ability to scale up its plant-based food, feed and ingredients sector, but it’s perhaps one of the most important. Without intellectual property strategies, companies across Canada may find themselves unable to protect their technology, formulations or other products, preventing them from scaling up to a point of being competitive with those leading the global plant-based foods race.

With the need to identify, protect and commercialize intellectual property in Canada comes the need to increase understanding surrounding intellectual property. Protein Industries Canada plays an active role in both efforts, from requiring intellectual property strategies in technology projects to helping companies throughout the plant-based foods sector better understand intellectual property as a whole.

“Don’t sell yourself short in the value of what it is you’re creating and the potential that others might see in that,” Protein Industries Canada’s Director of Intellectual Property Meghan Gervais said. “Every project generates some form of intellectual property, but people don’t always recognize it at the outset.”

One of the ways Gervais and the other project leads help project partners recognize this intellectual property and what can be done with it is introducing the partners to the different types of intellectual property they may create in their projects. They also walk the partners through how their intellectual property may change over time, and what their strategy options are if they do.

Work in this area has led to some exciting advancements. Members involved in some of Protein Industries Canada’s partner projects are filing new patents related to their projects, while others are strengthening the strategies they use to protect proprietary information and trade secrets.

More work is to be done, however. Gervais explained that Protein Industries Canada has some exciting plans coming up, including increasing access to webinars aimed at improving intellectual property knowledge and an expansion of the new IP Hub in Protein Industries Canada’s member portal.

“The IP Hub is an online platform where member companies will share non-commercially sensitive information about intellectual property that they’ve developed,” Gervais said. “It gives them a platform to be a bit more technical in sharing what it is that their project is specifically developing and offers an opportunity to identify new collaboration or commercialization opportunities.”

While this hub is currently focused on project-specific intellectual property, it will eventually be expanded to include non-project intellectual property from the private and public sectors, as well.

Behind the scenes, Gervais and other Protein Industries Canada staff are also working with industry members to develop an intellectual property advisory committee. The purpose of this committee would be to further advise Protein Industries Canada’s work in the area of intellectual property, based on sector-specific knowledge, to ensure the organization is providing the right tools and resources at the right times.

Finally, development of intellectual property strategies for technology projects will continue, though guidance related to those strategies continues to evolve as partnerships, projects and pieces of intellectual property do.