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Alberta's new intellectual property rules are coming this fall

The ministry of jobs, economy and innovation says the overhaul of the outdated strategy, meant to shore up research and development in the province, will be ready in the coming months. 

Overhaul promised almost a year ago, with companies urging greater speed

Cory Janssen, the CEO of AltaML, which specializes in applied artificial intelligence, says it's important for Alberta to update its IP strategy. (CBC)

Alberta will be getting modernized intellectual property (IP) rules for businesses this fall. 

IP is intangible assets derived from ideas, often protected using methods like copyrights, patents or trademarks.

The ministry of jobs, economy and innovation says the overhaul of the outdated strategy, meant to shore up commercialization, research and development in the province, will be ready in the coming months. 

A plan for post-secondary institutions was released in December, but entrepreneurs were not accounted for. That will change soon, a year after Minister Doug Schweitzer promised to revamp Alberta's IP rules "at the speed of business" to spur investment and beat out other provinces like Ontario and B.C. 

"We will be incorporating the IP strategy into a more extensive tech and innovation strategy that will also support companies looking to commercialize technologies, while also expanding foundations of talent, access to capital, system optimization, R&D supports and more," a statement from Schweitzer's office said. 

Businesses have been concerned the province lagged on updating its intellectual property (IP) rules, which could disadvantage entrepreneurs. 

The province has been working to attract technology projects to Alberta, but companies say the tax incentives and capital available are insufficient if the IP strategy isn't comparable with other jurisdictions. Having outdated policies can leave companies vulnerable to large competitors or with higher costs down the road. 

"IP is an afterthought when it actually should be central to our strategies," said Cory Janssen, the CEO of the artificial intelligence company AltaML. 

Intangible assets now make up about 90 per cent of the S&P 500 (a stock market index of top companies), according to an analysis by the Ponemon Institute.

Janssen added that Alberta needs the government "to show that this is a priority, because whether it's in clean tech, whether it's in [agriculture] or whether it's in energy, we know that IP and data are central to the success of companies, both big and small." 

Security and certainty for entrepreneurs 

There have been red tape issues in government and education problems among entrepreneurs when it comes to IP, Janssen said. 

The Canadian Council of Innovators has cautioned it's risky to lean on technology and innovation for a large part of Alberta's economic recovery without providing security and certainty through IP rules. 

While the council praised the intention, it says the government has focused heavily on universities and not enough on protecting small business entrepreneurs.

"To borrow from the festivities of the Stampede, it's time for this strategy to giddy up and move quickly forward," wrote Bronte Valk, the council's government relations manager in Alberta.

The council says Alberta's fulsome IP strategy should build education capacity to support innovation, foster expertise inside the government on IP and establish new governance frameworks for it. 

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