(What Goes Up Must Come Down - Except in the case of IP in treaty law)
A possibly unintended and certainly unwelcome consequence of the sad capitulation of Canada in the IP Chapter of NAFTA/USMCA is that the positive aspects of CETA – holding the line on copyright term of life + 50, the effective 8-year term of protection of market exclusivity for biologics, etc. - have been thrown under the bus.
The extension of the copyright term to life + 70 and the period of market exclusivity for biologics to 10 years will cost Canada billions and are effectively irreversible policy errors that should have been avoided.
This is because of the operation of national treatment and most favoured nation (“MFN”) provisions in CETA itself and the tangled web of other treaties and agreements to which Canada is bound. Indeed, Canada may now have effectively made these concessions to at least the other 163 members of the WTO, except perhaps where the Berne Convention rule of the shorter term may apply in the case of copyright.
National treatment is the golden rule of international IP law. Every country must provide nationals of other treaty countries the same rights as their own nationals.
The MFN principle holds that each country must provide investors, for example, with treatment no less favourable than the treatment it accords in like situations.
This means that the stronger protection now conceded by Canada to Trump’s USA will apply to the EU, thus vitiating Canada’s successful negotiation where we held the line on Canada’s existing regimes for copyright term and market exclusivity for biologics.
It is sad to see Canada’s proud history of 150 years of being a smart middle power on IP and acting largely in our own interest and even leading the world in some respects fade so quickly.
As I and many others never cease to remind, IP is a one-way ratchet. Needless increases in IP protection are not only bad for free trade and innovation. They cannot be reversed.
Both I and Ton Zuijdwijk discussed these principles in our CIGI Papers that formed the IP substantive component of the recent book publication Reflections on Canada’s Past, Present and Future in International Law.
Our papers are here:
- Knopf: Canada's Role in the Relationship of Trade and Intellectual Property
- Ton Zuijdwijk: Integrating the Rules of International Intellectual Property Law into the Body of International Trade Law
Canada is now worse off in terms of IP than we were before and under CUSFTA, NAFTA and WTO TRIPS. It will be interesting to find out – if we ever do – why this happened.
And, in this case, contrary to that great golden oldie hit of Canadian David Clayton Thomas and Blood, Sweat and Tears, what goes up can’t come down.
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