Written by: Christopher Chiavatti (IP Lawyer) & Liz Gray (IP Lawyer)
Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can access the federal government’s expanded Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) to help support innovation. The expanded IRAP program now includes the “IP Assist” program to help Canadian SMEs in their IP journey. The IP Assist program is a flexible, tailored program that is designed around your SME’s needs. In this article, we explore what the IP Assist program is, who is eligible, how your SME can participate, and how BRION RAFFOUL LLP can help.
What is the IRAP IP Assist Program?
The IP Assist program provides eligible SMEs with funds to engage IP-related services. While SMEs are expected to contribute to a portion of the costs, the funding does not have to be repaid. Generally, the IP Assist program will cover 75% of IP services and 80% of the salary of an internal liaison, up to the approved funding limit.
The IP Assist program currently has three levels, each of which has a different purpose and associated qualified activities:
- Level 1 – IP Awareness: This level helps to educate SMEs about IP, IP rights, and how those concepts are crucial to growing their business. This level funds an education session for IRAP clients.
- Level 2 – IP Strategy: This level helps SMEs develop a tailored IP strategy. Such strategy items could include, for example:
- Technical reviews;
- Reviews of contractual practices;
- Trade secrets strategies;
- Trademark searches and strategies; and
- Patent landscape searching.
- Level 3 – IP Action: This level helps SMEs to translate the IP strategy into concrete, forward-looking actions. Such action items could include, for example:
- IP strategy execution and implementation;
- Corporate IP policy development;
- Licensing strategies;
- Prior art searches and analyses; and
- Patent portfolio management.
Though example strategy and action items are given above, each SME will develop a customized plan in accordance with its needs. BRION RAFFOUL LLP can assist in creating a plan that advances each SME’s business goals.
Who is Eligible?
The following criteria must be met to be eligible for the IRAP IP Assist program:
- The company must be an incorporated, profit-oriented SME in Canada;
- The company must have 500 or fewer full-time equivalent employees; and
- The company must “plan to pursue growth and profit by developing and commercializing innovative, technology-driven new or improved products, services or processes in Canada”.
How Can Your SME Enroll in the IP Assist Program?
The first step in participating is to be matched with an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA). The ITA will:
- assess whether your SME is eligible to participate;
- guide you through the process; and
- as applicable, consider working with a local economic development agency, such as Invest Ottawa, Alberta Innovates, or Innovate BC. These agencies may also have other funding opportunities available.
If you do not have an ITA, BRION RAFFOUL LLP can refer you to one.
How BRION RAFFOUL LLP Can Help
Once your SME’s eligibility is confirmed, a project proposal will be prepared that:
- defines the scope of work to be performed;
- sets out the associated costs; and
- establishes a timeframe in which to complete the project.
The approved scope of work, funding amount, and timeframe will vary, which is why it is important to have IP experts prepare your project proposal. BRION RAFFOUL LLP has considerable expertise working with companies in the IP Assist program, from preparing project proposals to maximizing benefits after completing the projects. We can help your SME by:
- Developing a proposal to submit to the IP Assist program;
- Linking your SME with an ITA;
- Co-ordinating with a local investment agency to apply for funding; and
- Providing IP Assist-funded services, including those previously mentioned.
An IP Assist project might be completed in months, but an SME’s IP work will continue. After the project, BRION RAFFOUL LLP continues to work with clients to meet their IP needs and to maximize the lasting impact of the program.
For example, the IP Assist program does not presently pay for patent drafting. However, through participating in the IP Assist program, many SMEs realize how crucial patent filings are to their future success. BRION RAFFOUL LLP can provide patent drafting services using our flat fee-based model, which allows SMEs to forecast and budget for IP costs.
BRION RAFFOUL LLP will continue to be committed to your SME’s successful IP journey. As always, we stand ready to provide your SME with the world-leading patent, trademark, and legal services that we excel at each day.
For more information, contact our experts.