June 5, 2014

Patent Protection Tops Agenda for U.S-Canadian Bilateral Ties

By Kelly Anderson

On Monday, Ambassador Bruce Heyman made his first official public speech since assuming the role of U.S. Ambassador to Canada. In his remarks, the Ambassador touted the great importance of the U.S.-Canadian relationship, which accounts for $734 billion in bilateral annual trade. However, the Ambassador also spoke about another issue which is on the minds of both Americans and Canadians alike: the protection of intellectual property rights.

In his speech, Ambassador Heyman noted the importance of research and development to both promoting economic growth and fueling future innovation. The Ambassador also specifically spoke about the importance of strong patent protections to furthering the innovative process, noting:

“To ensure [innovation] continues, we must have patent policies and laws that encourage our creative talent to continue rolling out new ideas, and venture capitalists to invest the resources to make those ideas realities. Enhanced intellectual property rights protections are an important component of our bilateral trade relationship.”

Ambassador Heyman isn’t the only one who has weighed in on the need for robust IP protection in Canada. Last week, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighting U.S. industry’s concerns with the IP environment in Canada. Specifically, Mr. Donohue stressed industry’s concern with Canada’s unique standard for patent utility, a test by which the Canadian Judiciary has revoked nearly 20 pharmaceutical patents on the grounds that the medicines are not useful. The revocations came despite the fact that the drugs have been previously approved by Health Canada and were used by hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of patients.  Further, the rulings have significant economic consequences for innovative companies who invest up to 10 to 15 years and $1 billion in research and development to bring a new drug to market.

In the letter, Mr. Donohue acknowledges that “while we understand that you cannot control the decisions of the courts, we urge you and your government to consider all means available to ensure Canadian courts do not continue to overturn patents due to this faulty doctrine.” Innovative U.S. companies hope that the Canadian government takes Mr. Donohue’s message to heart. Because Canada is the United States’ closest neighbor, a top export market, and a long-standing economic partner, we encourage the Canadian government to utilize every tool in the toolbox, including a simple legislative fix, in order to enhance Canada’s IP system and innovative environment. As Ambassador Heyman aptly noted, intellectual property protections will be critical to future bilateral economic growth and the U.S-Canadian trade relationship.

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