On the mark: Ottawa law firms join program aimed at protecting Amazon merchants' IP

Paula Clancy
Ottawa trademark lawyer Paula Clancy runs one of the firms taking part in Amazon's IP accelerator program in Canada. Photo courtesy Paula Clancy

For Ottawa trademark lawyer Paula Clancy, the chance to partner with the world’s biggest name in e-commerce is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Clancy runs one of two local law firms that have been chosen to take part in Amazon’s new IP accelerator that officially launched in Canada this week. 

Her firm, Clancy PC, will help guide Canadian merchants that sell their wares on Amazon through the often complex and time-consuming process of registering their trademarks with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Clancy, who started her firm nearly 13 years ago, says she’s already received “multiple inquiries” from potential clients who sell on Amazon and are looking to tap into her expertise.

She’s currently the only lawyer in the practice, but she’s set to hire another associate next month. The office also includes a registered trademark agent and three certified trademark administrators.

“For a small firm like ours, this opportunity is tremendous,” Clancy says.

“I think it’s a fantastic program for small businesses who may not have understood the value of branding,” she adds of Amazon’s accelerator, which connects SMEs with a network of local law firms that charge preferential rates to provide IP advice and services.

The program aims to help businesses and safeguard the quality of merchandise on Amazon’s platform. Businesses that apply for legal advice through the accelerator will also get immediate access to tools aimed at protecting their brands before their trademarks are officially registered. 

For example, Amazon’s software automatically removes content that is misleading or is suspected of infringing on a merchant’s trademark. The e-commerce giant also offers tools that make it easier for businesses to report suspected trademark violations.

IP is big business in Canada, with nearly 160,000 applications for patents, trademarks and industrial designs filed each year. Clancy says Amazon’s program will help Canadian merchants build more robust IP protection, a field in which they’ve often had to play catch-up over the years.

'National importance'

“This is of national importance,” she says. “It’s essential for Canadian businesses to play the game and protect their intellectual property. I think we lag behind some of our trading partners in terms of IP awareness generally, and I think that's changed in the last few years.”

Eight law firms from across Canada are taking part in the program, including Clancy PC and the Ottawa office of Ridout & Maybee LLP. 

Tim Bourne, an Ottawa-based partner at Ridout & Maybee, says the trademark application process, which often takes up to three years to complete, can be “a little daunting” for small businesses.

Anything to help lessen the burden of protecting valuable IP will only benefit Canadian companies, he adds.

“It just makes it easier for them to do business,” Bourne says.

Amazon launched the IP accelerator program in the United States in 2019. It has since expanded to Europe, Japan and India as well as Canada.