Thursday, November 08, 2018

Follow Up on Bill C-86 – The Omnibus Bill that Amends Canadian IP Law

Bill C-86 has already been given second reading and is at the Finance Committee of the House of Commons. Yesterday, November 7, 2018, in the Finance Committee, there were about 10 minutes in total testimony by Grant Lynds, past President of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada(“IPIC”) and Michael Geist in his own capacity on There were some subsequent questions. This takes place in the second hour of the webcast.

IPIC is the main professional association that represents intellectual property lawyers and agents in Canada. (I have been a member of IPIC forever and have spoken at many IPIC annual meetings). Michael Geist needs no introduction.

Mr. Lynds made some important points about file wrapper estoppel and how an immediate change may impact pending prosecutions and litigation. He also raised some important points about the proposed College of Patent and Trademark agents.

Michael Geist was largely positive about the package but concerned about the need for regulations re patent and copyright trolling notices and a need for an exception for informational analysis for text and data mining exception.  Michael did not deal at this time with the issue of whether the existing copyright law is adequate to implement the necessary regulations to prohibit the inclusion of settlement demands in s. 41.25 and 41.26 notices. In my humble opinion, it is, and it is inexplicable that this hasn’t been done in the last six years.  The question of patent trolling notices and demand letters is potentially much more complex and controversial and may yet not be ripe for specificity in the form of a detailed statutory requirement or even a regulation.

Both Grant and Michael were invited to provide “one line” drafts of amendments about their concerns.

Their concerns are not necessarily susceptible to one-line cures – at least not without considerable potential controversy. And both have many concerns that go way beyond one-line solutions. And needless to say, these two people – able as they are – can hardly speak for all in the IP community.

Neither Grant nor Michael were critical of the omnibus process of this bill, which was disappointing. Even if they mostly like this bill – apart from the serious concerns both raised which are not fixable by one-line amendments – this sets a dreadful precedent for the future. I’m surprised that neither made that point.

It was noted, if I heard correctly, that amendments must be proposed by November 15, 2018 and “clause by clause” will take on November 20, 2018.

There’s no downside in carving out the 100 pages or so of IP provision in C-86 and putting them into a separate IP bill – for which there are many precedents – which could get a few days worth of necessary, dedicated, and informed committee hearings and debate.

Instead, it looks like this will get literally only a few minutes – with perhaps of couple of “one line” token amendments… that may well be controversial and will certainly deal only with the tip of the iceberg.

There is no precedent in Canadian IP history for this massive bypass of parliamentary democracy. There is no urgency here to justify this departure from democracy.

While none of the provisions are obviously “evil”, some are potentially complicated and fraught with uncertainty and unintended consequences.

On the good news front, the LEGISinfo site indicated that the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee, which include Senator Joe Day – a former IP practitioner – and which has done good IP work before, for example on the Copyright Board, will hold hearings on the IP part of his bill even before it gets to the Senate.

On the bad news front, it also is unusual for the Senate to do is review in advance and this confirms the unseemly and completely unnecessary haste inherent in this unprecedented and unwarranted omnibus approach to IP law review in Canada.


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