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Audit of the Management of Intellectual Property

Departmental Audit Committee
September 18, 2018

Executive summary

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) creates, acquires or procures a broad range of intellectual property products in the course of performing science and technology research. The intellectual property generated is a valuable Crown asset and must be managed in the best interest of the Canadian public.

The audit was included in the 2017-18 Integrated Audit and Evaluation Plan as intellectual property is characterized as a valuable asset for AAFC and that inadequate provisions for the management of intellectual property may result in failure to identify assets properly.

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the management of intellectual property for science and technology was operating effectively and managed in accordance with best practices, applicable policies, and related guidelines.

The audit concluded that AAFC’s management of intellectual property for science and technology is operating effectively and in accordance with best practices and applicable policies and guidance.

The following strong practices were noted:

The audit identified opportunities to improve the following areas:

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Overview

1.2 The Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization

1.3 Audit objective

1.4 Audit scope

1.5 Audit approach

1.6 Additional audit work

1.7 Conclusion

1.8 Statement of conformance

2.0 Detailed observations, recommendations and management responses

The following sections present the key observations, based on the evidence and analysis associated with the audit. For observations that include an opportunity for improvement, recommendations have been provided with management responses that comprise:

Training and guidance

Line of enquiry: Policies and procedures, training, and awareness activities were in place to support the identification and protection of intellectual property and align with the Intellectual Property Policy Framework for Science-Based Departments and Agencies and Open Science Initiative.

Audit work conducted: To assess the criterion above, the audit reviewed documentation provided and interviewed Science and Technology Branch staff.

2.1 Training of researchers and science management

Recommendation 1 – Science researcher training

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch should provide regular and consistent training on intellectual property principles that is centrally monitored.

Management response and action plan: Agreed.
Science and Technology Branch will use a systematic approach to deliver the training related to Intellectual Property by formalizing a training plan. The training plan will be developed by compiling topics based on specific training needs of individual centres and by ensuring that the basic elements of Intellectual Property are included in the plan. Science and Technology Branch will ensure that the training sessions are delivered in a consistent manner by working with Directors, Research, Development and Technology to ensure participation from the researchers.

Training sessions will be available to AAFC’s scientific community on Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization Knowledge Workspace.

A central database containing information about the training provided and attendees will be developed, implemented and maintained.

Post training satisfaction surveys will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the training program. The program will be modified accordingly.

Lead responsible: Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch
(Science and Technology Branch, Director General Partnerships and Planning Directorate and Regional Directors General)

Target date for completion:

Centralized Training Program: December 2018

Database: September 2019

Survey: December 2018

2.2 Training of commercialization officers

Identification, protection and transfer

Line of enquiry: Adequate processes and controls were in place for the identification, protection, and transfer of intellectual property for the benefit of Canada.

Audit work conducted: To assess the criterion above, the audit reviewed:

  • The agreement development and approval process for agreements types selected during the audit’s risk assessment phase: Collaborative Research and Development Agreements, Material Transfer Agreements, and National Research Participant Agreements;
  • The invention disclosure process and documentation of the protection decisions; and
  • The license agreement development and approval process.

Where samples files were reviewed, specific files were selected from the population based on geographical location and Commercialization Officer, to obtain a cross-Canada perspective.

2.3 Collaborative research and development agreements

2.4 Material transfer agreements

2.5 Research participant agreements

2.6 Invention disclosure and protection decisions

2.7 License agreements

Monitoring and reporting

Line of Enquiry: Monitoring of active intellectual property agreements and reporting on the overall benefit for Canada was conducted on a regular basis.

Audit Work Conducted: To assess the criterion above, the audit reviewed documentation provided and interviewed Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization and Science and Technology Branch staff.

2.8 Monitoring of active agreements

2.9 Patent monitoring

2.10 Reporting

Recommendation 2 – Performance reporting

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch should ensure regular reporting is conducted on the impact of its intellectual property activities that feeds into the results and delivery reporting for AAFC.

Management response and action plan: Agreed.
The performance measurements for intellectual property activities based on the indicators established for the Agri-Science stream of the Canadian Agriculture Partnership will be used to report on intellectual property activities and assets. The report will include elements such as the number of new invention disclosures, new patents, new Plant Breeder’s rights, trade secrets and new license agreements. The information included in the report referenced above such as the number of new license agreements are good indicators of the level of uptake of AAFC’s Intellectual Property assets by industry.

These metrics are recognized to effectively track a dynamic intellectual property portfolio.

These performance indicators will be shared with the Chief Results and Delivery Officer Corporate Management Branch to inform departmental reporting including reporting on results and delivery for AAFC.

While continuing to balance the benefits of trade secrets, patents and Plant Breeders Rights, Science and Technology Branch will promote success on a regular basis. For instance, Science and Technology Branch Assistant Deputy Minister will promote its Intellectual Property-related successes and new assets in its annual Agriculture Innovation publication.

Lead responsible: Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch
(Director General, Partnerships and Planning Directorate)

Target date for completion: April 2019

Annex A: Lines of enquiry

Annex B: Acronyms

AAFC
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
CRDA
Collaborative Research and Development Agreement
SBDA
Science Based Departments and Agencies
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