Gowling WLG is an international law firm created by the combination of Gowlings, a leading Canadian law firm, and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co (WLG), a leading UK-based international law firm.

With more than 1,400 legal professionals in 19 cities worldwide, Gowling WLG provides their clients with in-depth expertise in key global sectors and a suite of legal services at home and abroad. Their client-centric approach is evident in how they support businesses worldwide.

Gowling WLG is an important supporter of Innovation Factory and LiON’S LAIR. This year, they are providing crucial IP law and business advice to one of our lucky finalists. We chatted with the Hamilton team to find out more about some common legal concerns facing startups and how they can protect their innovative products.

Our partners make LiON’S LAIR possible. Because of their support, local entrepreneurs are able to reach their goals faster. We are proud to feature invaluable tips, advice, and information from our partners for startups and small businesses in Hamilton!  

What are some common legal concerns that small businesses seek advice on?

There are a range of legal issues facing a small business after the initial incorporation, some of which depend on the nature of the business while others are more universal. These include employment law issues, limiting liability (e.g. EULAs and similar agreements for companies in the software space) as well as protection of innovative technologies and other types of intellectual property, like trademarks, copyright, designs and trade secrets.

Why is it important to patent innovative products? When should a startup or small business begin this process?

Patent protection can be crucial to a small business for a number of reasons. For technologies that can be reverse-engineered or otherwise duplicated by competitors, it may be the only way to keep others from copying the technology. It can also become an asset, increasing the value of the company to potential early investors and even serving as security for a loan.

Having a patent, or even a pending patent application, also provides a marketing benefit because it indicates that the technology is at the leading edge.

The patent process should be started as soon as possible, for two key reasons. First, any public disclosure before the first patent application is filed can prevent you from getting a patent in most countries. Second, even if the invention hasn’t been disclosed publicly, the patent office operates on a “first to file” basis, and other companies may be working on similar products and someone else may independently come up with the same invention. If your competitor gets to the patent office first, they are entitled to get the patent, even if your company was the first to invent the technology. Therefore, moving quickly is crucial.

Why is Gowling WLG’s global presence important for Canadian startups and small businesses that are clients?

It may be trite to say that the world is shrinking, but the truth is that today a small business may have customers (or competitors) halfway across the planet. This can raise legal challenges that stretch across borders, and Gowling WLG’s worldwide reach can be a crucial advantage since we can quickly and efficiently get advice and take action in other jurisdictions.

Suppose a customer in Germany wants their contract to be governed by German law instead of Canadian law – what does that mean for the deal? Our office in Munich can help answer that question.

Gowling WLG is the first national Canadian law firm to locate in Hamilton- why is a strong presence in Hamilton important to your organization?

Hamilton is experiencing a renaissance and we are excited to be a part of it. We don’t want to be an aloof, remote law firm reachable only by phone, e-mail or a long drive through thick traffic.

Our lawyers and staff want to participate in the growth of Hamilton as genuine members of our community.

Hamilton’s businesses are our clients, and we are also their clients – we shop at local stores, eat in local restaurants and sponsor local events. We don’t just have an office in Hamilton, we are part of Hamilton.

What does it mean to Gowling WLG to support LiON’S LAIR and the work that Innovation Factory does?

We take a deep satisfaction and pride in working with Innovation Factory. It is incredibly gratifying to see our legal work help startups and small businesses grow to the next level. This isn’t about shuffling papers around – to us, it is about providing the crucial legal support to help entrepreneurs transition from idea to innovation to industry.

This post is sponsored by our generous LiON’S LAIR partner, Gowling WLG. Learn more about them here.