The House of Commons Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has spent the past few months hearing from a myriad of companies on the Canadian intellectual property system. With few public interest groups invited to appear, one of the primary themes has been the call for more extensive patent protections, as witnesses link the patent system to innovation and economic growth.
While policies that purport to help the economy unsurprisingly generate considerable support, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the Supreme Court of Canada recently provided a powerful reminder about the true purpose of patent law in a decision involving Pfizer’s patent for Viagra, the well-known erectile dysfunction medication. Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the world’s leading generic pharmaceutical manufacturers, had lost successive challenges against the Viagra patent, but managed to pull out a win when it mattered most. The decision has already had considerable fallout, as Pfizer has asked for a rehearing, had the patent confirmed as invalid in a Federal Court case with Apotex, and dropped its retail price to match the generic pricing.