Canada at a Crossroads

By Kelly Anderson

There are many things that the U.S. and Canada share: access to the Great Lakes, appreciation for the musical talents of Celine Dion and Justin Bieber—both native Canadians—and a love of ice hockey. But when it comes to intellectual property protections, unfortunately the U.S. and Canada are not on the same page.

Last year, the GIPC published an International IP Index, Measuring Momentum, which benchmarked the IP environment in 11 countries. Of the developed nations surveyed, Canada was the only country that fell short of embracing robust and globally-accepted IP standards. In essence, Canada’s IP environment is the skunk at the garden party in the developed world. At an event last Thursday, the GIPC sought to delve further into how to improve Canada’s IP environment to ensure that there are no stinky actors at the IP protections party.

Similar to the results found in the Index, panelist Raj Gandesha, a Partner at White and Case, noted that Canada’s recent policy and regulatory decisions more closely resemble those from Brazil, China, and India than those of other developed nations. And the increasing disregard for strong IP protections will both deter Canada and these nations from fostering innovation-based economies. Dr. Kristina Lybecker, a Professor at Colorado College, noted that through trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA), Canada has the opportunity to improve its IP regime, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector.  Lybecker stated that “a strong IP system in Canada would result in significant benefits to the population in a number of ways, both from a trade perspective, an economic perspective, and a public health perspective.”

Laura Dawson, the President of Dawson Strategic and a native of Canada, brought the Canadian perspective to the table. Interestingly, Dawson noted that the Canadian government knows that the U.S. frowns upon their IP policies, but there is little incentive to improve it unless the U.S. and Canadian governments can work together. Collaborating on cross-border enforcement issues, sharing information and resources, and teaming up on future innovation efforts will be the keys to changing Canada’s IP policy over the long-term. Michelle Wein, a research analyst with the Information and Innovation Technology Institute (ITIF), also spoke of the way forward for Canada. Wein noted that the ITIF has recently focused on using the United State Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 as more than just a “naming and shaming” mechanism, but as a tool to encourage countries, like Canada, to strengthen their IP protections.

No one likes to come in last and be the rotten egg, right? Whether it’s in a potato sack race, your high school class, or your country’s IP protections. The primary message from the panelists was this: Canada has the opportunity to ensure that its IP environment is no longer the rotten egg when compared to other developed countries. Canada must utilize the tools at hand, including pending and recently concluded trade agreements and greater collaboration with the U.S., to strengthen their IP environment in order to continue on the path to becoming a true knowledge-based economy.

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