Cleantech considerations for the evolving Canadian economy

Canada is poised to become a world leader in exporting clean technology by 2025. 

Here in British Columbia, one of Vancouver’s top intellectual property lawyers thinks we could see a cleantech boom following the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of investment interest in cleantech as a consequence of COVID-19,” says Roch Ripley, partner and Head of the Intellectual Property Group in Gowling WLG’s Vancouver office.

Paired with the ongoing smoke in B.C. due to wildfires, which are becoming more frequent, climate change is staying top of mind.

“It has made people really think about the adaptation that they will have to make to deal with climate change. And because to actually deal with climate change successfully, we will need a lot of international cooperation that will be complex and expensive to fight something that is invisible, which is analogous to COVID-19.” 

Over and above climate change in particular, the recession caused by the global pandemic will prompt the government to jumpstart the economy by investing in cleantech more generally, Ripley adds.

In September’s throne speech delivered by the Governor General, the federal government announced their support for a fund to spur jobs and investments in green technology in support of reaching the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In addition, the CleanBC Industry Fund is already investing millions of dollars of carbon tax revenue into projects across the province.

“All of these reasons are going to point us towards a big surge in interest and investment in cleantech,” says Ripley, who has been monitoring the number of patent filings related to cleantech.

While there were a flurry of filings 6 to 7 years ago, generally speaking the rate of filing has decreased from that peak, with certain exceptions such as in electric vehicle and battery-related sectors.

Patent applications related to clean technology, renewable energy, and sustainable development will likely be on the rise in the years ahead. “The last cleantech-wide burst of activity we saw was related to government spending in 2008. If we’re starting the cycle, I would expect to see an increase in activity soon.”

Gowling WLG is one of the largest and most respected law firms in Canada, with a reputation for innovative, client-focused service. It offers a diverse suite of business law, litigation and intellectual property services in all of Canada’s key industries, and has a reputation for excellence in client advocacy before courts, tribunals, regulatory bodies and governments in Canada.

“What I’m most interested in is intellectual property and patents,” Ripley says.

“Successful cleantech companies almost without exception invest in patenting.”

Intellectual property and patent filings are crucial to cleantech companies for several reasons, Ripley says.

The first is the sheer cost of developing cleantech. The research, development and capital costs alone can reach into the millions of dollars to create the technology.

“In terms of the cost to protect your R&D investment, it makes sense to patent in the cleantech space,” Ripley says.

There is also the international aspect. With its position as a strategic gateway to Asia, Vancouver is quickly becoming known as a global cleantech hub.

“Considering international IP is a must. Because a lot of foreign markets are interested in cleantech, you want to ensure that you’re protected with international patent filings,” Ripley says.

Lastly, innovations in cleantech usually result in creating tangible equipment that can be sold and inspected.

“Generally speaking, if you're selling in the market you can’t keep things a trade secret,” Ripley says. “The tangible nature of many cleantech products also means you don’t need to deal with issues that arise when trying to patent more abstract innovations, such as those based in software.”

“For those reasons, developing an innovation protection plan for your cleantech IP is crucial.”

Gowling WLG protects and enforces its clients’ intellectual property assets and helps them maximise their value at every stage of the business lifecycle

“The firm provides everything a company needs to succeed in terms of business-related legal needs,” Ripley says. “From starting your company to growing it, to getting acquired, to international expansion, all while keeping the strategic considerations that affect your business and your technology top-of-mind.”

To learn more about the services offered by Gowling WLG, visit the law firm online at gowlingwlg.com/cleantech.