Supporters of the TPP have been at pains to argue that the agreement is largely business as usual, reflecting standards and approaches that are already commonly found in existing Canadian law and agreements. Yet according to a document obtained under the Access to Information Act, that is not how government officials describe the TPP in their own analysis. Internal analysis drafted in late August 2015 shows officials described the IP chapter as covering “a much broader scope of issues than any recent Canadian FTA” and noting that the TPP goes beyond agreements such as TRIPS and NAFTA.
Indeed, here is how the IP chapter was described by Canadian officials weeks before an agreement was formally concluded:
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Research in Motion co-founder Jim Balsillie wrote a lengthy article on Canadian innovation policy last week that focused primarily on intellectual property policy. While the article would have benefited from some editing, Balsillie’s core argument is that Canada needs to do a better job of identifying and protecting domestic interests when it is developing intellectual property policy.
There is much to agree with in the Balsillie piece. For example, he rightly criticizes the 2012 Canadian copyright reform bill as primarily a response to U.S. pressure:
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The Internet Association, a U.S.-based industry association that counts most of the biggest names in the Internet economy as its members (including Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, and Yahoo), recently released a policy paper on how Canada could become more competitive in the digital economy. The report’s recommendations on tax reform generated some attention, but buried within the 27-page report was a call for patent reform.
The Internet giants warned against patent trolling, which refers to instances when companies that had no involvement in the creation or invention of a patent demand licences or other payments from legitimate companies by relying on dubious patents. Studies indicate that patent trolling has a negative impact on economic growth and innovation and is a particularly big problem in the U.S., which tends to be more litigious than Canada.
Given those concerns, the Internet Association urged the Canadian government to enact reforms to “limit the ability of non-practicing entities [a euphemism for patent trolls] of exploiting patents to make unreasonable demands of productive companies and prevent crippling damage awards.”
While the Canadian government has yet to respond publicly to the recommendations, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) reports that according to documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act, earlier this year Industry Minister James Moore launched a series of private consultations with Canadian business on intellectual property issues. The government came prepared to engage directly on the patent trolling issue, going so far as to identify several potential policy measures. Yet it was Canadian business that discouraged Moore from taking action, warning against the “unintended consequences” of patent reforms.
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I participated in a panel titled The Internet, Free Trade, and Transparency: An International Perspective as part of Yale University’s Trade and Transparency in the Internet Age.
The panel was moderated by Margot Kaminski and the other participants were Peter Yu, Ante Wessels. We discussed the impact of WikiLeaks leaking a draft of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement , another free trade agreement. Both leaks led to considerable public debate over both the content of the agreement and the negotiating process. The leaks, and their policy effects suggest there is a need for discussion of trade and transparency in the Internet Age.
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I delivered a keynote speech titled Taking User Rights Seriously: The Two Weeks That Changed Canadian Copyright as part of the 3rd Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest at the University of Cape Town.
Two weeks changed Canadian copyright for the foreseeable future. In a single day, the Supreme Court of Canada’ ruled on five copyright cases. This was just weeks after the Canadian government passed long-awaited copyright reform legislation. This talk examines the decade-long process that resulted in a seismic shift in Canadian copyright law toward user rights.
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