Evidence of meeting #31 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was innovation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Mark Eisen  President, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada
  • Graham Henderson  Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council
  • Michel Gérin  Executive Director, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada
  • Ruth Corbin  Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, CorbinPartners Inc., As an Individual
  • Jeremy de Beer  Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

I was going to ask what you would do about that, but I guess what you're saying is your hope is that the new bill will spark some discussion.

9:40 a.m.

Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, CorbinPartners Inc., As an Individual

Dr. Ruth Corbin

Let's hope it's more than a hope. You don't want to just have empty chatter here, but a way of talking. Perhaps, again, it can start from government, education, communication programs, and interviews with journalists to get the laws and the knowledge in the minds of all of us, so we can begin to respect them.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

It seems to me it's unlikely that the fact that the new bill is passed would spark the kind of discussion you're talking about, but if there are prosecutions and that becomes public, perhaps.... I don't know what's going to spark that kind of discussion in families.

Mr. Henderson, you're shaking your head furiously.

9:40 a.m.

Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council

Graham Henderson

Yes, because I don't think there are going to be prosecutions.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Fair enough.

Let me go on.

Professor de Beer, I just mentioned the Pirate Bay. I understand there is a recent Forbes article that talks about the fact that the most downloaded show this year is an HBO show called Game of Thrones, which you may be familiar with. Apparently it's been downloaded more than 25 million times since early April through BitTorrent. This goes back a bit to the question of not only culture but also what the models are that work and don't work. Some critics have said that HBO is taking the absolute wrong model by trying to put this on and charging $4 per viewing and so forth, and when it's been downloaded 25 million times at $4 a pop they've lost theoretically $100 million. I don't know if that's a proper way to measure it. Maybe you can respond to that.

I guess the question is can we, as legislators, craft legislation that would not only break down impediments to innovation but also provide information to companies to ensure they have revenue streams?

What are the solutions to that?

9:40 a.m.

Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, As an Individual

Prof. Jeremy de Beer

I actually am familiar with the program because I subscribe to HBO. My wife keeps telling me to cancel the subscription, but I keep it anyway, because I love that program.

First, I have to emphasize that it's a very different issue from the other aspects of science and technology innovation that we've been talking about here today. So the problems facing HBO are very different from the problems facing an SME in computer engineering in Waterloo or innovation in extraction of bitumen from the oil sands or something like that. They are very different.

What I would urge the committee to do is not to conflate the moral and economic and policy reasons to address illegal downloading from BitTorrent with the IP strategy to deal with innovation in science and technology. Separate those issues.

There is one area where they overlap, though, and that is in the facilitation of legal alternatives. I believe that the key to facilitate market alternatives is to simplify and streamline licensing procedures.

I happen to teach a course on the digital music business. If you were an entrepreneur trying to establish a new legal site to sell downloads, you would find that the process is so complex because there are so many different rights holders to deal with. If we could work toward streamlining and simplifying that process.... I appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in a case last December arguing that the court should do precisely that, and hopefully it will. That is the message: streamline.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

That reminds me of what Mr. Henderson said. I want to ask him how he would streamline the patent approval process. It's not quite the same thing, but you did—

9:40 a.m.

Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council

Graham Henderson

To bring us back to that, I agree there is a real distinction between the two. I actually think we dealt with the one, in large part, through the copyright reform act. In a certain sense, that job can be pushed off to one side. There are things we have to follow up.

As far as patent reform goes, I'm not a patent lawyer. That question might be better directed to my friends here. But I would say that at the CIPC we have a very big umbrella. It includes a lot of companies for whom patents are very important. It was one of my specific recommendations. But you should call them.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

If we have time, you directed the question to your colleagues, so I'll let them consider it.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

No, I'm sorry, Mr. Regan. We're over seven minutes. If it were solely up to me, Mr. Regan....

Now we're on to five-minute rounds.

Mr. Carmichael, go ahead for five minutes.

May 15th, 2012 / 9:40 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today.

We have so little time. Let me start with Madame Corbin.

In your opening remarks you talked to board governance and some of the gaps or the ineffectiveness. I wonder if you could go a little deeper into that. Is it strictly an education issue, or is there more to it?

9:45 a.m.

Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, CorbinPartners Inc., As an Individual

Dr. Ruth Corbin

First of all, the data show that business is the weak link in our innovation. That might be surprising. We are praised for our investment in knowledge industries. But business itself is not keeping up with the business productivity of other countries.

Why is it not happening? In my experience, it is not happening at the board level because boards of directors themselves are not properly tuned in to the immense value of intellectual property. Intellectual property is now easily between 70% and 80% of the saleable assets of most modern corporations, even corporations not in the business of creativity. Yet because it's invisible, as our first questioner asked, it's hard for boards to get around it.

Here's what's straightforward to do: put it on the agendas of boards of directors colleges. It's not on the Rotman agenda, and it's not on the McMaster agenda. It's not on the governance guidelines of the TSX or of the securities regulators in each of the provinces.

You get what you measure. You tell people this is what the performance metrics are, and that's what you will get back. It's as simple as that. It's worked for businesses ever since they discovered that mantra.

9:45 a.m.

Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council

Graham Henderson

But it's also businesses' job.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Right. But your point is it becomes a responsibility of boards, then, to get educated, to understand it, and to then go to work and commercialize it, develop it, etc.

Carrying on from that—and I'll open it up to the whole group—how can we encourage businesses to be more deliberate and to tap into the revenue potential they have in their existing IP portfolios? I haven't read them, but I will gladly take copies.

9:45 a.m.

Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council

Graham Henderson

That was the reason Lucas and Manley put together the Coalition for Action on Innovation, which published its report in 2010. There is now an association, the Centre for Business Innovation, which was opened under the auspices of the Conference Board of Canada. I'm a steering committee member there. That was an activity initiated by business. Business stepped up to the plate and said, “Notwithstanding the fact that there are things government can do, there are things we have to do to be better at this”.