Friday, March 16, 2018

Looks Like Intellectual Property Issues Were Addressed in the 2018 Federal Budget

         By Henry Stewart

According to leading Canadian full service intellectual property law firm Bereskin and  Parr LLP, at least one portion of Canada's 2018 Federal budget outlined changes to Canada's intellectual property (IP) laws intended to help Canada’s innovative companies utilize IP assets to help grow their company.

As outlined in the March 9th, 2018 Lexology post, "A Radical New Way of Thinking about our Innovation Economy: Canada’s IP Strategy and the 2018 Budget," last year’s 2017 budget included reference to a Canadian National IP strategy, in order to facilitate an "innovation ecosystem" where commercialized IP (including patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs, trade secrets and other items)  assist Canadian firms to grow to scale.

This year's budget allocated financing for the strategy, with "an overall commitment" of $85.3Mln for:
  • A pilot patent collective ($30Mln) or "sovereign patent fund," which, as outlined in the May 19th , 2017 Globe and Mail post, "Canada needs an innovative intellectual property strategy," will address the calls from "innovation experts who understand the critical role of IP in a 21st-century economy."
  • The creation of IP education and legal clinics ($21.5Mln) for "clinical legal education to both train and grow the pool of IP expertise, while at the same time providing much needed IP legal services to early stage companies."
  • The development of IP tools ($33.8Mln) to track the pool of IP available at Canadian research institutions and through funding initiatives, which can be taken over and commercialized by Canadian firms. 
As outlined in the March 1st, 2018 post, "'Patent Boxes, our Canadian Space Agency and the Lack of Real Innovation in the 2018 Federal Budget," IP management is a critical component of growing Canada's innovation economy.

It's good to know that others feel the same. At least some of this message seems to be getting through to the Federal Liberal party.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lauren Southern vs. the UK, the Growing New Media Landscape & Elon Musk Wants a News Service

         By Chuck Black

In the past, this blog has discussed media as it relates to science and the space industry, in articles such as the November 17th, 2013 post, "The 2013 Canadian Space Summit Media Panel," and the February 4th, 2013 post, "Hiding Science Behind Academic Journal Paywalls."

We've also applauded, as outlined in the November 8th, 2015 post, "A New Era for Canadian Space or More of the Same?," when then newly minted Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains fulfilled a Liberal party campaign promise to allow government scientists and experts to comment on their work to the media and to the public, without interference from their political masters.

And we've complained loudly when, as outlined in the September 29th, 2014 post, "No Visas for Russian and Chinese Space Delegates to Attend IAC 2014," the Federal Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused access to senior members of both the Chinese and Russian delegation to attend the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC2015), which was held in Toronto, ON from September 29th to October 3rd, 2014.

But the recent refusal to allow independent Canadian journalist Lauren Southern to enter the United Kingdom (UK) to report on UK immigration and the domestic political situation is problematic to all journalists, everywhere.

As outlined in the March 13th, 2018 Independent post, "Lauren Southern: Far-right Canadian activist detained in Calais and banned from entering UK," Southern was denied entry into the UK because, "her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good.”

Southern is known online for her you-tube videos, and is considered as an independant representative of the growing new media. As outlined on her Wikipedia page:
Lauren Cherie Southern (born June 16th, 1995) is a Canadian far-right political activist, Internet personality, and journalist associated with the alt-right. In 2015, Southern ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in the Canadian federal election. 
She worked for The Rebel Media until March 2017. Southern continues to work independently and publishes videos on YouTube.
To be fair, the reference for Southern's categorization as a "far-right political activist," is from the July 27th, 2017 Canadaland podcast, "Why Lauren Southern Got Banned From Patreon." According to Canadaland:
The Patreon account of former Rebel Media personality Lauren Southern was banned late last week by the subscription-based crowdfunding website, following a lobbying campaign by the UK based anti-extremism charity HOPE not hate. 
“Yes, HOPE not hate lobbied Patreon directly, and they removed everyone connected to Defend Europe (a European based identitarian focused political organization which Southern reported on and was active in, but which was also actively at odds with the viewpoints promoted by HOPE not hate) from their service,” Hope not hate director of communications Nick Ryan told CANADALAND in an email. 
A Patreon representative informed Southern by email last Thursday that her account was being banned because some of her actions were “likely to cause loss of life” but didn’t elaborate further on any specific actions that prompted the ban. 
Patreon is a popular crowdfunding platform used by independent media creators, including CANADALAND (and the Commercial Space blog), that allows “patrons” to pledge support via recurring payments.

Curiously enough, HOPE not hate also has other aspects to its agenda. As outlined on its website, the organization grew out as a response to the gains made by the British National Party (BNP) in the middle 2000's.

HOPE not hate opposed the BNP and eventually took credit for its collapse.

So Southern and HOPE not hate both had agendas and viewpoints to disseminate. Southern simply preferred to state her biases in her editorials, unlike others, who preferred campaigns designed to "defund" and "de-platform" their opponents.

Much of the rest of our current media landscape also comes with an attached agenda.

This includes traditional media outlets such as the CBC, and more alternative outlets such as the Vancouver BC based Universe Today (a competitor to this blog, since we both cover many of the same topics) and Toronto, ON based Rebel Media (where Southern used to work).

For example, its interesting to note how Kent, WA based Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos gets such wonderful coverage of his rocket company from the Washington DC based Washington Post, which Bezos also owns.

Even Elon Musk might just be looking to get into the media business. As outlined in the March 14th, 2018 Gizmodo post, "Elon Musk Starts Media Business, Possibly Named 'Thud!,' Musk has certainly made suggestions in that area.

In essence, there is nothing wrong with setting up your own media outlet, or bringing a viewpoint to your posts. The problem isn't even when other organizations (like HOPE not hate) with contrary viewpoints seek to compete in the marketplace of ideas in order to advocate and effect change.

The problem occurs when governments, often in response to lobbying efforts from organizations like HOPE not hate, take it upon themselves to censor people like Southern.

When that happens we all need to take note and object.

Otherwise, the freedom to research, assess, develop independent conclusions then speak and subject those conclusions to peer review via publication and exposure to a wider audience, is in jeopardy.

This is what seems to have happened to Lauren Southern.

As journalists and commentators, we need to point this out and object to it, in order to prevent those same surreptitious actions from secretly hanging over the heads of each and every one of us.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Medbotics & Carbon Engineering: Canada's Tech Sector is Rising from Its Own Ashes

          By Brian Orlotti

In recent weeks, as the Trump Administration sparked fears of a global trade war by imposing new steel and aluminum tariffs, then exempting Canada and Mexico only on the condition of a “good” outcome on current North American Free Trade (NAFTA) negotiations, the need for growing Canada’s own tech sector has never been more apparent.

Ironically, two such new firms are spin-offs of a Canadian tech firm that has all but shed its Canadian identity.

The first firm, Insight Medbotics Canada Corporation (IMCC) was formed by the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation (CSII), a federally-funded Canadian Centre of Excellence working in partnership with Richmond, BC based MDA Corp (a subsidiary of San Francisco, CA based Maxar Technologies) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

IMCC’s goal is to launch a new generation of intelligent robotics which build on Canadian technology used in the Canadarm, Canadarm 2 and Dextre robots.

Its first device, the Image Guided Automated Robotics-Breast (IGAR-Breast) imager, is designed for detection and treatment of breast cancer in it’s earliest stages.  IGAR integrates with magnetic resonance imaging systems, enabling a radiologist to select a target area from a patient’s scan and remove  cancerous tissue with millimeter accuracy. In addition to the technology’s obvious applications in space, IGAR will also provide patients in remote communities greater access to advanced healthcare.

IMCC is led by Paul Cooper, who is also listed as being the vice president of strategic development at MDA. Cooper, in addition to holding a Ph.D. in Computer Science, is a former entrepreneur and university professor. He sits on the board of Family Outreach and Response, a community mental health serves organization in Toronto, ON.

Incorporated in Hamilton, ON in 2016, IMCC is working to establish its manufacturing base and sales and marketing operations in Southern Ontario. The company expects to create over 100 high tech jobs over the next five years.

The second firm is Squamish, BC-based Carbon Engineering (CE), founded in 2009.

CE’s primary business is ‘Air to Fuels.’ This technology extracts carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere and combines it with hydrogen to synthesize currently-used transportation fuels such as diesel, gasoline and Jet-A.

Because Air to Fuels uses hydrogen produced with renewable energy as well as existing atmospheric CO2, it is a means of mass producing fuels for existing infrastructure with little or no fossil carbon emissions.

CE’s MDA alumni include former MDA CEO Dan Friedmann, who now acts as CE's chairman of the board and former MDA SVP of strategic business development Steve Oldham who, as outlined in the January 11th, 2018 CE press release, "Carbon Engineering Announces Leadership Transition," took over as CE's chief executive officer on February 5th, 2018.

Parallels can be found between MDA and another former Canadian tech giant; Blackberry, formerly Research in Motion (RIM). Just as RIM’s decline and various bloodletting's freed vast amounts of technical talent to launch new innovative firms, so to has MDA’s decline seeded new players.

United States trade representative Robert Lighthizer looks on as President Donald Trump signs an executive order at the White House in January. The March 12th, 2018 Toronto Star post, "Trump exposes free trade as a failed policy for Canada," is a reminder to all Canadian's, especially our space agency (with its preference for building components used by the space agencies of other countries but with no interest in developing complete programs of specific use to Canada), that we might want to broaden our capabilities if we don't want to be left behind.  Photo c/o Doug Mills / NYT.

Out of its decline, Canada’s tech sector could prove to be a Phoenix rising from its own ashes.

As Canada is under threat of being discarded by its old ally to the south and facing an uncertain new world, Canadians can take comfort in the fact that we can adapt...when we choose to.

But much work lies ahead.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

Silicon Valley Company Co-owned and Run by a Canadian has Launched Four "Unauthorized" & "Dangerous" Pico-sats

         By Henry Stewart

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has accused Silicon Valley, CA based Swarm Technologies, a communications start-up co-founded by four expatriates, including Canadian born CEO Sara Spangelo, with launching four "unauthorized" and "dangerous" experimental satellites into orbit in January 2018, shortly after the company had been denied an FCC launch licence.

Not to fear. It's unlikely anyone will end up in jail over this. With a bit of luck, it might even help define and develop some needed new legislation in this area.

Swarm Technologies CEO Spangelo's April 24th, 2017 astronaut candidate profile on the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) website. Spangelo applied, but was not accepted, to be a Canadian astronaut during Canada's fourth astronaut recruitment campaign in 2016-2017. Graphic and photo c/o CSA.

As outlined in the March 9th, 2018 IEEE Spectrum post, "FCC Accuses Stealthy Startup of Launching Rogue Satellites," the FCC never approved the June 12th, 2018 launch of the tiny, Swarm built SpaceBee-1, 2, 3, and 4 pico-satellites on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket which blasted off from India’s eastern coast that day.

The pico-sats (built to a 0.25U cubesat form factor design) are considered extremely small and very difficult to track.

As outlined on the Gunter's Space Page listing for the SpaceBee-1, 2, 3, and 4, are the "world’s smallest two-way communications satellites" and are designed "to serve as a cost-effective low-data rate Internet of Things (IoT) network connectivity solution for remote and mobile sensors."

According to Gunter:
...the tiny satellites have very small radar cross section, which might complicate the tracking. 
Therefore they featured a GPS device in each satellite that would broadcast its position on request. Also the four smallest faces of the satellites are covered with an experimental passive radar reflector developed by the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which according to the FCC application would increase the satellites radar profile by a factor of 10.
Last Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four larger microsats, based on the much larger 1U cubesat form factor, and expected to launch next month.

A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm’s system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.

The March 7th, 2018 e-mail from Anthony Serafini, the chief of the FCC's Experimental Licensing Branch to Swarm employees postponing the second test of four larger swarm satellites in order to "permit assessment of the applicant's apparent unauthorized launch." The original rejection December 7th, 2017 rejection letter from Serafini, is available online at E-mails c/o IEEE. 

As outlined in the March 10th, 2018 The Verge post, "The FCC says a space startup launched four tiny satellites into orbit without permission," Swarm’s launch seems to have been set up by Seattle, WA based Spaceflight Launch Services, a company which helps satellite operators find ride-shares to space for their vehicles. 

Spaceflight told IEEE Spectrum that it “has never knowingly launched a customer who has been denied an FCC license,” and felt that it was the responsibility of the customer "to secure all FCC licenses.”

An FCC license is meant to grant companies use of the radio frequency spectrum, according to the Verge article. However, the FCC: allowed "to consider how a satellite will add to the space debris problem when issuing these licenses," (as per the August 31, 2006 National Space Policy). In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration has partial authority on this too when it issues licenses for commercial rockets. 
The agencies were given this authority mostly because they’ve been doing licensing for such a long time — and there was no one else to do it.

Of course, no one is going to end up in jail over this. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responsibilities in this area often overlap with the FCC responsibilities and there are also great gaps in the current legal coverage.

The Trump administration has proposed a way to fix this, through the creation of a “one-stop shop for space commerce” at the US Department of Commerce, which would come up with regulations to oversee operations in space through its Office of Space Commerce

Time to send in the space lawyers. Here's hoping that they're not just a bunch of clowns.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

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