How the government hopes to strengthen intellectual property in Canada

OTTAWA — The federal government has unveiled new measures on intellectual property as it seeks to improve Canada’s performance in a critical area of the increasingly important ideas-based economy.

Intellectual property, or IP, is about owning, protecting and making money from an idea in any sector through intangible assets like patents, trademarks and copyrights.

In launching the government’s long-awaited strategy Thursday, Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains called IP the most valuable business asset in the knowledge economy.

In its recent budget, the Liberal government committed about $85 million over five years towards a strategy.

Thursday’s release follows warnings that Canada has been a laggard on the international stage when it comes to IP development. Some industry and academic leaders say the country’s entrepreneurs, companies and the wider economy have been at a disadvantage, particularly when compared to big IP players like the United States and China.

Only 10 per cent of small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada have IP and only nine per cent of them have IP strategies, Bains noted.

Ottawa is also hoping to address what it calls ”bad behaviour” in the country’s existing IP regime with help from legislative amendments to curb intimidation and inappropriate ”trolling” of some businesses by patent holders.

Here are several ways the federal government says it will improve the IP in Canada:

Stamping out misuse and eliminating barriers surrounding IP. The government is pledging to eliminate obstacles for innovative companies by amending key laws for patents, copyrights and trademarks. Proposed changes to the Patent Act would discourage IP owners from sending deceptive or vague notices to businesses alleging patent infringement. In the past, such notices have been used to unfairly intimidate firms and sometimes demand they pay settlements for alleged IP infringement. Under the changes, the government says settlement demands will be removed from the so-called notice-and-notice regime.

“This was designed, really, as an educational measure — the idea that people would become more aware of the limits of copyright,” University of Ottawa law professor and IP expert Michael Geist said of the original purpose of the system. “It was never intended to be used to include settlement demands.”

The proposed changes will also look to address the practice of “trademark squatting,” where people misuse the system by hanging onto a trademark they have no intention of using themselves, such as an internet domain name, to sell it at a later date for profit.

Better tools to expand the use of IP. Ottawa aims to give businesses the tools they need to pursue their own IP strategies. For example, it will provide $18.7 million over five years to help make the processes for dispute resolution and copyright tariffs cheaper and more efficient for IP owners and users. The government will also provide funds to help innovative Canadian firms leverage their IP — and increase revenues — by making sure their patented technologies comply with international standards. The plan has also provided more details about the creation of a new, $30-million patent collective, which was announced in the budget and will enable companies to pool and share their IP as well as their IP strategies.

Increasing awareness, literacy and sophistication surrounding IP. The plan also includes several ways to help Canadians better understand IP. Examples include $1 million over five years to support clinics that help law students lean more about IP, access to advisers and online tools to help demystify the IP process via the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. and $2 million over three years for surveys to gauge how well Canadians understand and use IP, with a focus on those less likely to use it such as female and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

“They may seem small but their potential impact is huge,” said Tawfik, who has been advocating for the IP law clinics for a long time.

“We’re encouraging — especially on university campuses — students to come up with the next best idea that they’ll be able to commercialize and, of course, will then lead to Canada’s growth and prosperity. And yet we’re not providing them with the entire menu of resources and tools that they need — most especially, intellectual-property legal advice.”

She said there are really only two law clinics in Canada that provide IP searches and advice, while in the U.S. there are hundreds.

Overall, Tawfik said, the various measures in the IP strategy are “quite significant” and could help Canada catch up with other jurisdictions around the world.

“You’ve got to recognize that none of these things have really been in place before (in Canada),” she said.

Just Posted

Life and death: Mistake sent one family to funeral home, the other to hospital

Doctors told Jody Littlewolf that her daughter was brain dead and should… Continue reading

‘Still beautiful:’ Waterton Lakes National Park prepares for life after fire

WATERTON, Alta. — Parks Canada officials and businesses in Waterton say there… Continue reading

British royal family thanks those who celebrated wedding

LONDON — The royal family, blessed with fantastic weather and a buoyant… Continue reading

Cougar kills 1 mountain biker, injures 2nd near Seattle

NORTH BEND, Wash. — Two friends on a morning mountain bike ride… Continue reading

Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park announces closure

Citing mounting costs, Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park recently announced it was… Continue reading

Red Deer Silhouettes prepare for year-end show

Synchronized swimming team will perform its last show this season May 30

How a 94-year-old retiree became a gym rat

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Like many gym rats, Paul Russell lifts weights… Continue reading

‘Like a warzone:’ People evacuated as fires burn through Manitoba city’s downtown

BRANDON, Man. — Leanne Marlow saw the flames engulf the building across… Continue reading

Canadians celebrate mix of pageantry, modern twists in royal wedding

As the freshly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex embark on married… Continue reading

Maduro favoured as Venezuelans vote amid crisis

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to win a… Continue reading

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humour

SANTA FE, Texas — Hardworking. Funny. Loving. Grieving family and friends recalled… Continue reading

Record Everest climber returns, already planning next trip

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A veteran Sherpa guide who scaled Mount Everest for… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of the year

Hundreds came out to the first farmers market of 2018 Saturday

Canadian families among throngs of royal fans camping out for glimpse of newlyweds

WINDSOR, United Kingdom — Intense security measures, massive crowds, jet lag and… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month