The “First Patent Program” : A Great Start for Protecting Your Innovation

January 1, 2016

By Louise G. Bernier

Inventors and entrepreneurs, take note !

If your company has never filed an application to protect the results of its research projects, it now has a more appealing option to do so through the First Patent Program (Programme Premier Brevets) created by the Quebec Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Exports (MEIE).

This program aims to increase the number of Quebec companies protecting their intellectual property (IP). It was established to encourage businesses with 250 employees or less, registered in the “Registre des entreprises du Québec”, and who have never filed an application:

• for a patent,
• an industrial design, or
• to register an integrated circuit topographies,

and for which the innovation:

• required research and development efforts; and
• has market potential.

Since the launch of the program on August 1st, 2015, an eligible business could benefit from the reimbursement of a substantial part of its IP expenses on its first-filed application of this type.

Funding Process

The financial aid consists of a refund of up to 50% of the applicable IP expenses, up to a maximum of $25,000 per project (i.e. for a project with $50,000 in total applicable IP expenses). A company can receive financial assistance for one project only under the First Patent Program.

Once your request for financial aid is accepted, the MEIE will send you an agreement, setting out the related terms. After signature of the agreement, the Ministry will disburse 50% of the projected costs for the first step of the application process. All other payments will be made once it is shown that the previous step was completed and paid for.

Refundable Expenses

For patent applications, the following interventions may be eligible for reimbursement:

• prior art search
• patentability analysis
• drafting and filing of a patent application
• strategy coaching
• freedom-to-operate opinion
• national phase entry of an international (PCT) application
• examination of the application

as long as these steps are performed after applying for financial aid under the First Patent Program.

Selection Criteria

Some aspects of the project are positively evaluated by the Ministry, namely:
• a high market potential;
• the quality of the IP service offer;
• the level of competence of the IP team who produced the service offer.
The riskiness of the project or unpredictability of a technology may have a negative impact on its evaluation for eligibility due to the high level of uncertainty regarding the project.

The team of patent agents at ROBIC have prepared a service offer specifically designed to meet the criteria established by the MEIE for the First Patent Program.

Only projects for which the first steps towards IP protection were taken after August 1st, 2015, are eligible for the First Patent program. As such, provisional or regular patent applications filed after such date would be eligible. If your PCT application was filed prior to August 1st, 2015, but your national phases entries (NPE) are to be filed later, the expenses for the NPE would be eligible. It is however important to keep in mind that only expenses incurred after the date of submission of your request for financial aid are eligible for reimbursement, and this for a period of up to 36 months following the date of submission of your request for financial aid.

Required Documents

Businesses who wish to request financial aid must submit the following documents to the Quebec Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Exports (MEIE):

• the completed submission form, which can be downloaded here: http://www.economie.gouv.qc.ca/index.php?id=20817; and
• the service offer prepared by ROBIC.

These documents should be sent to the “Direction des maillages et des partenariats du ministère” and can be submitted at any time.

In addition to the submission form and the service offer prepared by ROBIC, we recommend that you submit any document, letter of intent or contract that may help indicate to the Ministry that your project is serious and well on its way to being commercialized. For example, if you already have a potential licensing partner, this fact should be emphasized in your application for financial aid, as it supports the commercial potential of your innovation. The Ministry has indicated that all relevant information will be considered.

Please contact us if you would like to apply for the First Patent Program and benefit from ROBIC’s service offer customized for the First Patent Program. Our highly specialized team of patent agents will provide its experience and knowledge in the field of patents to offer you the best possible protection for your innovation. For over 120 years, our mission is to advise our clients on how to gain and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace through the effective protection, management, development and marketing of their innovation enforcing their proprietary rights.