Parliamentary Committee Releases IP Study

Last week, the Federal Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released its Report on Canada's Intellectual Property Regime.

The Committee heard from 50 witnesses over the course of the hearings, which began on May 10, 2012 and concluded on February 5, 2013. I've blogged about the work of this Committee previously and the interest shown by Parliamentarians like Mr. John Carmichael (Don Valley West, CPC) and Mr. Dan Harris (Scarborough Southwest, NDP). In particular, Committee members were interested in the linkages between Intellectual Property and Canadian economic growth, investment and jobs. More on that in a bit.

So what did the Report cover?

Well, the Report contains 21 recommendations covering five broad areas of study and also provides an opening background perspective of the key elements of Canada's current IP landscape. The areas studied by the Committee included:

  1. CIPO and the Government of Canada Policy and Programs;
  2. Streamlining the IP Process;
  3. Industry, Academic and Government Collaboration;
  4. Piracy, Counterfeits, Trademarks and Copyrights, and;
  5. Pharmaceutical IP Challenges

So what to make of this Report?

Well, I think that Parliamentarians asked the right questions relating to Canada's IP regime and were provided with a broad range of views on the challenges faced here in Canada.

For example, Chapter II focuses on ways in which awareness of IP and the value to Canadian society, small and medium sized businesses should be increased.

Chapter IV on strengthening and streamlining the IPP process in Canada rightly identified that reduced certainty and increased transaction costs can negatively impact innovation and investment.

Chapter V on Fighting Counterfeiting and Piracy also cited testimony by the RCMP that focused on the health and safety hazards of counterfeit goods, including fake pharmaceutical products - a serious problem that we must all work together to combat.

Finally the Report also looked at the issue of pharmaceutical IP within the Canada EU CETA negotiations. I've blogged a great deal about the importance of these measures to Canadian patients and to the Canadian economy.

So, while it is terrific that Parliamentarians are sinking their teeth into IP issues and the Report identifies many areas and recommendations relating to streamlining processes, ratifying international accords and promoting IP amongst SMEs and the Canadian public, the larger issues of global competitiveness remained somewhat obscured.

As their Senate Colleagues have pointed out in a Report on clinical research previously published and a recent Measuring Momentum Index suggests, R&D investment into Canada is linked to a number of factors, including a competitive IP regime.

On the Measuring Momentum Index on overall scores, Canada was closer to Mexico and other lower-income countries in IP scoring than to their higher-income peers of the United States, the UK and Australia.

Seizing opportunities to remain competitive with our international counterparts should be a key element of the federal government's trade agenda. Integrating Pharma IP into the CETA agreement is one way in which governments and Parliament could improve competitiveness while supporting patient health.