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Canadian IP law leaves room for improvement

Sluggish and antiquated process have made Canada one of the most consistently lacking countries in adequate IP protection

Canada has been on the Special 301 Report -- a report listing the countries that fail to adequately set in place intellectual property protection legislation -- for 23 of the 25 years that the report has existed, according to the Ottawa Citizen. For as many acclaims as the country has received in public health and education -- to name two -- it has historically lacked in the department of protecting IP, putting it on par with some emerging markets that are less economically stable and working on enhancing IP regulations.

Efforts in the past on the part of legislators have not come up to snuff for Canadian innovations -- markedly concerning the "promise doctrine" or the rule that an invention intended for patent must have some useful purpose and deliver the utility specified by the sought-after patent. This doctrine has failed some patent-seekers because the usefulness of various inventions could not be determined by the date set for patent filing of the inventor. Clearly, the process needs to be revised, but it is one of the ways in which Canada's system inhibits innovation rather than encourages it. 

Still, some Canadian industries thrive with patent seeking -- almost to a fault. The energy industry is one; the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance has been taken to task by aiming to protect nearly 600 energy production and consumption technologies over the years, although those have not come without trial. The administrative hurdles over which inventors and patent-seekers must jump have served to hinder innovation, and are even more aggravated by the inadequate copyright protection legislation. (Copyright-violating patent websites have notoriously rooted themselves in Canada as copyright infringement is more lax.)

If the country wants to enter the powerful world economies in its own right, IP laws and copyright enforcement are going to have to take an aggressive turn towards improvement.


Further reading:

Patents in Canadian energy abound

More Canadian women ‘Breaking Through’ as general counsel

Canadian law complicates potential Blackberry sale

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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