Vaccines and board games all in a day’s work for patent officers
David Boudreau and Reid Mulligan are passionate about their jobs. Both are patent officers at Canada’s clearing house for innovations—the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). They examine, assess and, ultimately, protect novel ideas that originate with Canada’s best and brightest.
David’s specialty is reviewing new techniques for detecting illnesses, while Reid has two areas of expertise: electrical innovations and ideas for games.
“I immerse myself in fascinating proposals for new patents—often in medicine and immunology—that could change and, in many cases, save the lives of Canadians,“ says David. “This can include applications for vaccines used to treat or prevent diseases. Proposed immunological products might cover anything from pregnancy tests to antigens and antibodies for brain and breast cancer.“
Reid’s job can be a lot more light-hearted. “I really like my work,“ he says. “It’s always different and can be a lot of fun. I might be looking at a new idea for a lottery ticket one day, and the next it’s a design for a gaming table at a casino, or perhaps a board game that some family has thought up.“
Rewarding innovators for their efforts
CIPO has the gargantuan task of protecting original ideas coming in from all over Canada. That is why David says his job is so interesting. He gets to witness a flow of new concepts that stream through his office.
“Our vision at CIPO is to encourage and protect innovation so that innovators can be rewarded for their efforts. This in turn helps to build an innovative knowledge based economy and foster Canada’s prosperity. The people I work with and the amazing information that crosses our desks every day make my job distinctive.“
While both men have different specialties, the process they go through at work is much the same.
“Whatever it may be, the same standards for granting a patent always apply. Every proposal is judged on its novelty, utility and ingenuity,“ Reid explains. “It’s exciting. Innovation always starts in someone’s mind. But CIPO is often the next step in the chain of creativity that’s building Canada’s knowledge economy.“
Science fair leads to the Patent Office
David studied chemistry and biochemistry, although he says working as a patent officer has long held a special attraction for him.
“Strangely, perhaps, I’ve always wanted to be a patent officer, ever since I was in high school and became acquainted with the Patent Office via a science fair project. I wrote to the Salomon and Rossignol ski companies about the polymers used in their skis, and they referred me to the Patent Office. Since it was in my hometown, my science teacher took me there, and we spent a whole day meeting people and learning about patents. I was hooked and knew I wanted to work there some day.“
Reid is an electrical engineering graduate. His background gives him special insight into the electrical patent applications that land on his desk. “Within those applications there are all the technical components. My electrical engineering training gives me an understanding of what they’re trying to invent,“ he says.
And Reid is just as enthusiastic as David about the work he does.
“CIPO is a great place to work. It takes special preparation to become a patent officer, and CIPO’s training program is first-rate. They really bring you along nicely, and now I have an interesting, well-paid job with excellent colleagues. I’d recommend a career in the Public Service, and CIPO, for anyone.“
Workplace without barriers
Although Reid has cerebral palsy and is used to overcoming the challenges posed by his disability, he has found CIPO an enabling place to work. His own workplace is barrier free, and he says he has been well accommodated on the job.
“I never have a problem getting the equipment I need,“ he says, “especially when it comes to getting something with an ergonomic design that works for me. CIPO even helped me get an indoor parking space, right in the building, so I don’t have to worry about taking a tumble on the winter ice any more.“