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New study gives first impression on the impact of intellectual property (IP) on Indigenous businesses

New study gives first impression on the impact of intellectual property (IP) on Indigenous businesses

Toronto – June 29, 2021 – A survey conducted by Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) determined the use and impact of intellectual property (IP) among Indigenous businesses to gain a better understanding of the impact IP has had on their performance.

CCAB worked alongside the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) to execute the 2019 Intellectual Property Survey of Indigenous Businesses. This survey, the first in Canada to explore how Indigenous businesses protect traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, identified and revealed a more in-depth understanding of the awareness and use of IP protections among Indigenous businesses in Canada. The report findings show how Indigenous businesses access and use IP and aims to help policymakers develop equitable and accessible policies, programs, and services for Indigenous businesses.

The survey was executed via telephone survey and conducted with 1,100 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis business owners across Canada between August 7th and September 10th of 2019. CCAB published a brief of the findings on April 26th, 2021. The information collected by this report is valuable to update programs and services to be more inclusive of Indigenous business realities and engage Indigenous entrepreneurs on ways to protect traditional knowledge and cultural expressions in the Canadian context.

“Indigenous businesses play an important role in our economy, and bring growth and innovation to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. This partnership has enabled us to produce high-quality data on the awareness and use of IP among Indigenous businesses. We will use these report findings to better understand the unique challenges Indigenous businesses face and work with them to make the system more accessible and inclusive.” says the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“Intellectual property that is well-protected can provide a company with a significant competitive advantage” says Tabatha Bull, President and CEO, CCAB. “The Canadian IP system must be relevant and accessible to Indigenous entrepreneurs so they can contribute to the shared prosperity generated by the knowledge economy. This study gives us the first impression of the necessary tools, resources and protections required to ensure Indigenous businesses connect to the Canadian IP system.”

Amidst the findings, CCAB discovered the characteristics of Indigenous entrepreneurs, the familiarity of IP and the use and protection of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

  • The population of self-employed Indigenous peoples continues to grow at a greater pace than that of self-employed Canadians overall.  44% increase between 2011 and 2016.
  • There is a marked gap between the proportion of Indigenous (36%) and non-Indigenous (43%) entrepreneurs in the professional, scientific, and technical, education, health and social service sectors.
  • One in five (20%) Indigenous business owners say they sought information, guidance or advice on patents, trademarks, or other types of IP in the past few years. Among those who sought such information, most (84%) say they found what they needed.
  • Most Indigenous entrepreneurs who own IP agree it has contributed to their business performance in various ways, including improved long-term business outlook (80%), increased business value (76%), higher revenue (72%), and opportunities for partnership and collaboration (70%).
  • Reported use of traditional knowledge is higher among women-owned businesses than among men-owned firms (66%, vs. 48%).
  • A small group (7%) of Indigenous traditional knowledge (TK) and cultural expressions (CE) users say they have had unauthorized use of their TK and CEs, while most (88%) say this has never occurred.
  • Those that have experienced a negative impact identify financial loss (34%) and loss of cultural meaning (31%) as the most common consequences of unauthorized use.

This research is a first step to understanding the current IP landscape regarding Indigenous businesses, traditional knowledge, and cultural expressions. CCAB recognizes significant challenges to protecting Indigenous collective rights within a largely individual-rights framework. CCAB hopes to leverage this baseline research to conduct additional studies into the unique IP needs and challenges Indigenous businesses experience with the current IP system in Canada and make recommendations for a more inclusive and relevant IP framework.


About Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

CCAB is committed to the full participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economy. As a national, non-partisan association, its mission is to promote, strengthen and enhance a prosperous Indigenous economy through the fostering of business relationships, opportunities, and awareness.  CCAB offers knowledge, resources, and programs to its members to cultivate economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses across Canada. For more information visit ccab.com.


Lynda Keith

Director of Marketing

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business


Cell – 416-540-7586