Friday, April 27, 2018

Ottawa's IP Plan to Promote Canadian Innovators and Investors

         By Chuck Black

The Federal government is moving forward with plans to revamp the rules surrounding intellectual property (IP) issues. It's a success story which contains lessons for Canadian space advocates, who followed down much the same path last year, but failed to develop anything more than a shopping list of problems needing attention.

Canada's current intellectual property laws are "rife with dysfunction," and need to be fixed to attract new business investment for innovative Canadian based technologies, according to the June 15th, 2017 MacDonald Laurier Institute (MLI) post, "Eliminating Dysfunction in Canada's Intellectual Property Regime: New MLI Paper." According to the post, "Patents, copyright and anti-piracy measures are some of the areas that will require the federal government’s attention as it follows through on its promise to craft a new intellectual property strategy for Canada." Graphic c/o MLI.

As outlined in the April 26th, 2018 CBC News post, "SWAT teams and patent trolls: inside Ottawa's IP plan to promote Canadian innovators," Canada "will bring in new rules to protect innovative companies from foreign predators, and create programs to help them leverage intellectual property to benefit both their bottom lines and the country's economic growth."

Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains made the announcement on April 26th, 2018 at the Ottawa, ON based Bayview Yards Innovation Hub.

Developed through a series of public consultations outlined in the August 10th, 2017 Federal Government post, "Canada's New Intellectual Property Strategy" the revised policies will include:
  • The creation of a new "SWAT team" of Federal government experts with  a mandate "to help small and medium-sized firms develop and retain control of their intellectual property."
  • New initiatives to promote IP awareness and education among Canadian entrepreneurs, particularly companies run by women and indigenous people.
  • $30Mln CDN for a pilot project to create a "patent collective" in Canada, where companies can share IP expertise and strategies. Patent pools, or collectives, are consortium's of two or more patent holders who agree to cross-license patents in order to save time and money.
  • $18.7CDN in new funding to "resolve disputes" over IP and copyright cases currently before Canadian courts.
  • Promised new legislation intended to protect patents, copyright and trademarks of Canadians firms from so-called "patent trolls," holding companies that routinely go after Canadian firms claiming their products infringe on patents they hold.
As outlined in the March 16th, 2018 post, "Looks Like Intellectual Property Issues Were Addressed in the 2018 Federal Budget," funding to move forward with the new strategy was included in the latest Federal Budget.

The structure of the IP review, beginning with a series of public consultations leading to the formulation of consensus recommendations, followed by the allocation of funding to develop policies to implement those recommendations, is a pattern the ill-fated Space Advisory Board (SAB) also attempted to follow during it's deliberations in 2017.

However, unlike the SAB, the new IP review was bolstered by assessments and public presentations on the topic from places like the Ottawa, ON based MacDonald Laurier Institute, a non-profit think tank which published papers and supported discussion on the issue, and the various major Canadian law firms, who benefited by being perceived of as experts in the area.

Together, these organizations independently assessed various plans and performed an essential due diligence function, which publicized the IP review and helped to build a consensus. On the other hand, the SAB, perhaps simply reflecting the larger Canadian space industry perception that it's improper to get into any sort of serious public policy debate, was cold to independent assessments.

In at least one instance, as outlined in the November 2nd, 2017 post, "Media Refused Entrance to Thursday's CSCA Meeting at Denton's Law Firm," one of the strongest SAB supporters, the Toronto, ON based Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA), refused entrance to independent media on a discussion of relevance to the SAB.

As a result, and as outlined in the March 22nd, 2018 post, "What Happens After the Failure of the Space Advisory Board?," the SAB did not build the public feedback loop needed to incorporate contrary viewpoints into its report, build consensus and move forward.

Maybe the SAB, or whatever might end up replacing it, will know better next time. Until then, congratulations to all those involved with Canada's IP review and the new strategy.
Editors Note:Just when you think the world is unfolding as it should comes reaction from the international community. 
As outlined in the  April 28th, 2018 CBC News post, "US adds Canada to priority watch list over intellectual property concerns," the Trump administration has labelled 36 countries as "inadequately protecting U.S. intellectual property rights," keeping China on a priority watch list and adding Canada over concerns about its border controls and pharmaceutical practices. 
The Trump administration cited Canada's "poor border enforcement," especially for counterfeit goods shipped through Canada, and expressed concerns over "intellectual property protections for pharmaceuticals."
America First!!!
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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