The House of Commons may have adjourned for the summer, but just hours before breaking, the government filed its response to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology’s report on the Intellectual Property Regime in Canada. That may sound dry, but the document provides a clear indication of what the government has planned for the coming years on IP reform.
So what’s in store? Leaving aside an assortment of promised studies, the government response includes five notable plans (or non-plans).
First, the government will unsurprisingly march ahead with Bill C-56, its anti-counterfeiting legislation. The bill will die on the order paper if the government prorogues this summer, but look for it to return fairly quickly. The bill was pushed through second reading as a dry run to test the opposition party positions. The government learned that the bill will not face significant opposition – the parties want full hearings, but neither is strongly opposed and the Liberals even seem to want ill-advised changes targeting in-transit shipments.
Second, the government will lay the foundation for potential international trade agreements such the Canada- EU Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership by launching consultations on whether Canadian law should be consistent with several IP treaties, including the Patent Law Treaty, the Madrid Protocol and Singapore Treaty on trademarks, and the Hague Agreement on designs. As I noted in March, this recommendation in the committee report arose despite the fact the committee heard no testimony on the issue. That provided a clear sign that the government wants to move on this issue and this response simply confirms it. Given its past approach on consultations, the government will undoubtedly claim support for the treaties.
Third, consumer groups will be invited to join the IP Crime Working Group that is led by industry groups and the RCMP. Interestingly, the government states that “having consumer groups participate in the Working Group will contribute to a more balanced approach to combating counterfeiting and piracy.”
Fourth, the government will review the rules protecting official marks, which the committee heard is overbroad. The government appears open to reform, committing to “review the current issues around official marks and will consult with provinces, territories and stakeholders on possible changes to the official marks regime in order to remove barriers faced by Canadian companies seeking trademark registration.”
Fifth, the government is not interested in expanding patentability to new subject matter. The response notes the controversy associated with business methods and software patents and seems content to rely on current law and jurisprudence to address new innovations without the need for additional reform.
In sum, this is a modest plan. Having expended significant political capital to pass copyright reform legislation last year, it is apparent that the government will address IP pressures that arise from trade discussions (the IP agreements and anti-counterfeiting bill) but little else.