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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

May 15th, 2012 / 9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Actually, first of all I'd like to thank all the witnesses for being here. I was going to go down a different line, but Dr. de Beer, let's just expand on that question of “how”.

Obviously, across the group here today we have a very learned group of people who've looked at this, studied it from various angles. You must have a sense of what the answer to that question might be. Could you share your views as to what the “how” is?

9:55 a.m.

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

Prof. Jeremy de Beer

Yes. The key is to increase certainty and reduce transaction costs. Those should be the overarching principles of intellectual property policies--increase certainty, reduce transaction costs. That means when you go to get a patent, we need to create a system where you're reasonably assured that the quality of the patent is high enough that it's going to stand up in court.

We're not just encouraging people to go out and get patents because they can or we think it's good for them. You get a patent because you deserve it. When you get it, you know it's good. Then you're going to reduce the costs of litigation, you're going to facilitate licensing. There are a variety of concrete strategies that I'd be happy to follow up on about how to do that.

It's increasing certainty and reducing transaction costs that will make the market work.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Excellent.

All of you have had a common thread of education, training, public awareness--cultural change, you might call it--in terms of how not only SMEs but the public at large view this issue. Do any of you have anything beyond the traditional ways of communication and training that we have?

Ultimately, as governments work, in practical terms it boils down to a few talking points. What are the talking points?

I'll start with Dr. Corbin.

9:55 a.m.

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

Dr. Ruth Corbin

Here's how you could help in a big way--use the words “intellectual property”. I'm just going to leave you with one big idea. Nobody knows what it is, and yet here we're talking about what we believe to be one of the most important things in the country.

One time, when I spoke to the president of the Institute of Corporate Directors, we spoke for about an hour. I thought she was getting excited about the idea. When she left, she said, “Well, thank you, Ruth. I'm sure our lawyers will know what you're talking about.”

If you could start to use the words “intellectual property” in your public addresses so that they become part of our common language, so that people say, “What does that mean?”, so that they start to talk about it, you would do us all and the country a great service.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Henderson, do you have any views?

9:55 a.m.

Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council

Graham Henderson

I agree with that.

Again, I think there's a large role for business. If you look at the various accelerator centres, I think that type of initiative is extremely important in order to promote the diffusion of ideas.

I think CIPO, I'll go back to that, has to be empowered. I think it has to be expanded. I think it has to be provided with more resources. I think the U.S. has an IP czar. Our having an IP czar is important, as is the intellectual property council we talked about. Intellectual property is important to all departments of government.

I just want to add one thing about evidence base. There are 197 footnotes in the road map for change report. There are 134 in the time for change report. There is an enormous amount of evidence that is already out there. I don't know that we really need to go about reinventing the wheel. Ruth actually has assimilated all of it.

I would be cautious in committing the government to lengthy, years-long studies of an issue that really has been studied to death around the world already.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

I think Mr. Gérin had a comment on your question, Mr. McColeman.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Go ahead.

9:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada

Michel Gérin

There are simple approaches as well. We're trying to do one with the provinces. When somebody is starting a business and goes to the provincial government to ask what they need to do to start their business, it's simple for the person to say, “Maybe register your name as a trademark so you don't lose it later,” or “Get a patent if you have an invention, before you start selling it”--just that basic approach.

Mr. Henderson mentioned CIPO. It's probably the only group right now tasked with raising awareness. The problem is it's not their core mandate. As revenues drop if there are fewer filings, that's the first place they cut, the outreach program. When revenues come up, then they'll do more outreach. We need some form of stable funding for that awareness to happen.

10 a.m.

President, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada

Mark Eisen

I think part of the issue is that it's an extremely complex area. I think I read that on Thursday somebody used the terminology of drinking from a fire hydrant.

We have to focus the discussion on the uses, advantages, and bottom-line benefits of intellectual property to the business, and not worry about the nuances, the subtleties, and dotting the i's and crossing the t's, which are really things that can be dealt with once the benefits have been determined.

10 a.m.

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

Prof. Jeremy de Beer

I also think we need to focus not only on the benefits, but on the risks and the perils. If business leaders know that poor intellectual property management can sink them instead of save them, it puts fear into them, and they had better understand it. We're starting to see this. You can't read a weekly issue of The Economist without reading an article on patents or copyright, or some kind of IP issue.

I think it matters who we target.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

I'm sorry, sir, we're over time. Thank you very much.

Now on to Mr. Masse, who was talking about the intellectual property of Mr. Lake just a moment ago.

10 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

That's right. His catch phrase is “trademark”, so we won't use that any more.

I want to start by noting that the response to the 2007 report was miserable. We had unanimous consent, and we also pushed the issues a little bit further, and we've only seen a couple of movements.

Recommendations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 16 are all of the Criminal Code. Recommendations 9 and 10 are regulations. On recommendation 11, the CBSA has been cut now by more than $100 million, which required more resources. For recommendation 12, we now have the CBSA excluded from the Shiprider program. Recommendation 13 is regulations. In recommendation 14, the RCMP needed more resources and jurisdiction, and recommendation 15 is the same with Health Canada.

When we were looking at some of the issues at that time, it wasn't just about the knock-off batteries that have mercury going into our landfills. We were looking at things like panels in hospitals that were made illegally and were deficient, and so forth, and actually had the Canada standards stamp on them. So it's quite serious. We're talking about airplane parts, we're talking about automobile parts, and a whole series of things.

My selfish concern comes from a manufacturing sector that's been battered. In 2005 we had an $18 billion manufacturing deficit of exports. It's now $80 billion. So what I was focused on, as well as the public safety side, the Health Canada side with regard to food products and so forth, was also expanding our capabilities in manufacturing again.

Where do we go from here? I've heard the word “czar”. Dr. de Beer, you talked about a panel, a commission, so to speak.

I still want us back in the game of manufacturing. How do we get there? I would ask Mr. Henderson to start, and go across the panel. I want to hear what we can do here, right now, to get us back in the game of manufacturing, because, selfishly, those value-added jobs are disappearing across this country, and innovation, intellectual property, whatever you want to talk about.... I know you want us to talk about those words, but our constituents sometimes roll their eyes back in their skulls, and it's not a topic they really get engaged in. But they do understand jobs, and I really believe this is entirely connected to jobs. I'd like to know how we get there right now.

10 a.m.

Co-chair, Canadian Intellectual Property Council

Graham Henderson

Yes, it is connected to jobs.

Implementing those recommendations is not expensive. The IP crime task force cost something like $25 million.

I think what we have to remember is that these are billion-dollar problems that we're trying to solve, and I think we all, all taxpayers, share a desire not to create additional tax burdens. Nobody wants that. But if the government is making smart investments in infrastructure that are going to create jobs and safeguard our marketplaces, then I think that's a wise investment of taxpayers' money.

Implement these here. That means start there and develop. I think you're right. I think it's going to translate directly into jobs.

10 a.m.

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

Dr. Ruth Corbin

The main thing to realize is that manufacturing companies themselves have more than a majority of their asset value tied up in intellectual property. I don't see the inconsistency.

You have manufacturers, but you recognize, as a leader of that organization, that the know-how, the trademarks associated with the products you're producing, possible patenting, and possibly copyrighting of certain of your working documents are where your added value is going to be.

I actually find that this IP discussion is the secret to getting those jobs back, to enhancing the value of our manufacturing companies, and is not the competitor to it.

10:05 a.m.

President, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada

Mark Eisen

My understanding is that innovation leads to jobs, so incentivize innovation every single way you can. Liberally grant rights and patents and trademarks. As long as they're well deserved there should be no reason not to grant these things. And they should be funded. They should be funded to some degree at the taxpayer expense, because they result directly in jobs.

10:05 a.m.

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

Prof. Jeremy de Beer

I actually disagree. I don't think granting IP rights liberally and basically seeing that as a panacea for the problems of the manufacturing sector is the right strategy at all. In fact you're more likely to get more low-quality patents. If we just basically tell everybody to go out and get patents, it costs them money, or taxpayers' money, and what does it really accomplish?

I do agree strongly that we need to focus on innovation, because innovation is the key to enhancing productivity. There is a role for the IP system to play here. Dr. Corbin mentioned that branding is very important. But manufacturers, especially SMEs, may not know the value of the trademark system to promote and protect their brands. Sure, there's a problem of counterfeit goods and enforcement, but that's not really the root of the problem for the manufacturing sector either.

One of the things they could do is have better training and awareness and education. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and in fact IP offices worldwide, have databases disclosing how-to manuals for all kinds of innovative products and processes. Patents expire 20 years after the application, so there's a whole body of knowledge, technical knowledge, technical specifications, basically how-to manuals, in patent databases. Manufacturers could tap into that, find out whether the invention is in the public domain, and if so, use it, and if not, find out who owns it and start to negotiate collaborative agreements to share technology. There's a wealth of information there that could be accessed.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Thank you, Mr. Masse.

We're now on to Mr. Braid for five minutes.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all of the witnesses for being here this morning and for your excellent presentations.

I'm hoping to reach most of you with my questions, so we'll get going.

Professor de Beer, there was a reference earlier to perhaps considering the merit of a specialized court in Canada. Can you point to any examples of effective specialized courts in other jurisdictions that we might consider?

10:05 a.m.

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

Prof. Jeremy de Beer

The problem with the question is “effective” specialized courts. A number of other jurisdictions have created courts like this. The U.K., for example, has created the U.K. Patents County Court, which has failed to develop the type of expertise that many had hoped it would, or really solve the problems with access to adjudication.

I think the key, and this is something that a task force or a independent review could do, would be to assess the success of different countries that have tried to create this, comparing the U.K. Patents County Court to the U.S. Federal Circuit, and to try to create a system that's based upon the best of all of those. But that type of evidence or that type of information simply doesn't exist. That study hasn't been done.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Great, thank you.

I have a second question for you, Professor de Beer. In your presentation you seemed to focus on the need primarily for more research training and education as an important objective in this area. Could you elaborate on how we might do that, and again point to any examples in other jurisdictions of effective research, education, and training programs?

10:05 a.m.

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

Prof. Jeremy de Beer

In terms of outreach and training, I think the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is starting to do some very good work, but they've got a narrow mandate and little funding.

I offer a course for the Canadian trade commissioners through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Every Canadian trade commissioner who goes abroad to work with Canadian businesses is now being trained on awareness of intellectual property issues. So far it's done on a relatively ad hoc scale; we've done this maybe a dozen different times. I don't know if that's going to continue, given budgetary constraints. So really we need to focus on investment and outreach.

In terms of research, I think we need to focus on applied research, and not understate the valuable contributions that organizations like Genome Canada, SSHRC, and NSERC are making in understanding how we move science and technology innovation from the lab to the market. They're doing great work, and we should continue to support it.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Thank you very much.

Madam Corbin, you mentioned that currently Canada isn't very well coordinated with the OECD and WIPO and that we need to align more closely. I was a little surprised to hear that. Could you provide an example of how we're not aligned?

10:10 a.m.

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

Dr. Ruth Corbin

I didn't mean to say that we're not aligned. My remarks were regarding the ranking and measurement systems that they have, where Canada is ranked and applauded and not applauded on certain of its performance measures, and Canada is not responding with an integrated, confident system of performance measurement everybody agrees on. That is what I found in my year of research, that everybody is using the same language, but like blind men feeling an elephant, they're all talking about different parts of it, measuring different things in different ways, and wielding statistics like weapons in public forums that end up giving different stories. That's where we could be part of the international discussion on measurement performance and economic competitiveness.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Okay. Great.

Mr. Eisen, I will magnanimously take Mr. Regan's unanswered question. Could you take a crack at how we can streamline the patent application and approval process?