Senior Legal Counsel
Intellectual Property / Information Technology
M&A and Divestitures
Senior Legal Counsel
Who he is
“I always admire entrepreneurs who see an opportunity, have the vision, and then have the guts to go out there and start a business and take risks,” says Morgan Jarvis, a former Olympic rower. “In many ways, they have the same drive as an athlete does. It’s a huge endeavour, and they will commit their life to it.”
Morgan would know. Since the age of 12 and through his law studies at Queen’s University, he maintained a strict training regimen to prepare for London’s 2012 Olympic Games. “It was a big sacrifice to make it each step of the way to get to that point,” he says. “I think it partly explains why I have so much respect for entrepreneurs and want to help them.”
With a background in molecular medicine, Morgan has focused his in-house law practice on commercializing scientific innovation, technology and IP. As the founding director of two medical technology start-ups, he also brings real-world business knowledge to the table. “When you understand the bigger business picture, you can be a lot more creative in giving legal advice,” he says.
Optimistic and collaborative by nature, Morgan is also passionate about helping new ventures develop strong trademarks and branding strategies to support their business objectives.
Away from the office, Morgan can be found spending time outdoors with his young family, trail running or rowing. He also enjoys fixing up old houses.
How he got here
After finishing his Master of Science in pathology and molecular medicine, Morgan enrolled in law at Queen’s University and is now completing the Americas Executive MBA program offered by Queen’s and Cornell. A Canadian national team rower through several World Championships from 2004 through 2012, he also competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He went into private practice in Ottawa at one of Canada’s leading intellectual property and technology business law firms before moving in-house at the Ottawa Hospital Research institute in 2015. In 2017, he took up a position as Director of the Queen’s Business Law Clinic, which provides a range of free legal services to mostly tech start-ups. In Ottawa, he co-founded Realize Medical Inc., a medical imaging start-up based on innovative VR and AI software, and Genvira Biosciences Inc., a cancer therapeutic R&D company. In 2020, he moved to Halifax and joined Simplex Legal as Senior Legal Counsel.
Interview with Morgan Jarvis
How much should founders of tech start-ups worry about legal issues? Or is it just about hitting the ground running and getting to market?
Look, it’s being aware of the risks out there and informing yourself in an educated way. Sure, you can decide just to run and get out there as fast as possible, because that’s a very valid model to follow. And frankly, that’s what most tech companies do because the first-mover advantage is so powerful. But you want to do that, understanding that you might be giving up some rights to file a patent, especially if you’ve gone out and publicly disclosed the secret sauce behind your brilliant idea. It’s probably wise to consult with a legal professional early so that you’re aware of the issues in front of you. Maybe it’s a critical piece of your business model, and then you probably do want to protect it. Or, perhaps not. The other thing you shouldn’t overlook is trademark protection. One of my favorite areas is the branding strategy, and talking to clients about whether they’re picking a good brand that they can defend in the first place.
How should businesses approach patent protection?
Ideally, you want to get a patent because you’ll have a much broader monopoly over the technology it covers than offered by other forms of protection. But businesses need to understand that it’s hard to patent software — though it helps if the software is part of a physical system you’ve developed. But sometimes, all you have is software code and copyright protection, and the risk is that others can develop their own code that does the same thing. You can also look at trade secret protection as a way to keep your methods and processes confidential, and that kind of protection can last forever. Trade secrets can be a precious form of protection when it comes to software systems and particularly AI, and all that valuable data it relies on.
What about privacy considerations?
Getting on top of privacy laws is important for almost any business in today’s digital world. There’s a lot of emphasis now on data as there’s a lot of value in the business applications of that data. Considering AI as an example again, you might need access to and consent to use personal data or access and consent for patient data in the medical context. Laws impacting data protection, personal information and personal health information are a huge part of many business models.
Leading-edge technology is always pushing the boundaries of what’s legal and what’s not. Companies have to make sure that they’re playing within the lines, or pushing the line in just the right ways to make it move. Then they need to remain compliant again when the law does catch-up. A great example is the coming modernization of Canada’s data protection laws. Regardless of where the law stands, there’s always the need to respect consumers and their expectations anyway. And then technology doesn’t necessarily know jurisdictional boundaries, so when you’re getting into other markets, handling personal information from other jurisdictions, there can be a whole other set of hurdles to jump, like those under the GDPR.
What are a few examples of activities, hobbies you enjoy participating in?
Spending time outdoors with family, trail running, rowing, flipping houses and helping medical technology companies get to market.
Write about a personal or professional achievement you are proud of.
I’m particularly proud of the years of training that culminated in my competing in the 2012 Olympic Games. I’m also proud of the extent and range of my academic achievements. I have a Master of Science in Pathology and Molecular Medicine, a law degree and will soon be completing the Americas Executive MBA program offered by Queen’s and Cornell.
Why did you decide to join us at Simplex?
Having worked in law firms and in-house, I know it’s in-house work that I enjoy the most. Working as part of the business team, considering legal issues and providing practical advice in that context is much more interesting and satisfying. Simplex provides the unique opportunity to work on a range of challenging and interesting files for various clients, but in an essentially in-house capacity. The simplex business model just makes so much sense to me and provides a more rewarding work experience than traditional law firms. I can really believe in the value and service we’re providing.
What is it about Simplex's model do you believe is most attractive and beneficial to our clients?
The flexibility and slashed overhead expenses are a real win for Simplex’s lawyers and clients. Clients have access to a range of seasoned professionals with varying backgrounds and expertise, as much and when they want them, and at a considerably reduced rate.