IPIC: 80 Years Stronger
Before Confederation, there were a few practising patent solicitors in the
Canadian colonies, none of them depending solely on patents or trademarks for
their livelihood. Upper and Lower Canada had their own patent acts and, between
them, had granted over 3,000 patents before the first federal Act, the Patent
Act, 1869, was passed.
Until 1858, when Ottawa became the capital of Canada, the Patent Office roved
the country in unison with the capital city. In 1872, when amendments to the Patent
Act were passed, the Patent Office was established in Ottawa and the Minister of
Agriculture appointed Commissioner of Patents.
With the onslaught of the 20th century, WWI and industrialization, the number
of patent applications soared. Neither the Patent Office nor the profession was
equipped to cope and the profession fell into disarray. Canadians were soliciting
business in the United States; Americans and other foreign attorneys were practising
in Canada and filing directly with the Patent Office. When the first register of
attorneys was established in 1923, the only requirements were good character and
the ability to prepare and file applications. There was no education or training
requirement and people already practising were virtually grandfathered in since the
Commissioner had no way of assessing qualifications.
From Chaos into Order
In 1926, Alex MacRae, manager of the Ottawa office of Marks & Clerk, and Russel
Smart, the Ottawa partner of Fetherstonhaugh & Co., invited all Canadian practitioners
to a meeting to form an association whose main purpose would be to improve the law
and practice relating to patents, and promote and maintain high standards in the
profession. Twenty-six names, distinguished in the profession to this day, made up
the founding membership roll. In his presidential address, J. Edward Maybee confessed
that he had been elected mainly because he was the only member on good terms with
all the other members.
One of the Institute's purposes was to curb the prolific - and somewhat competitive -
advertising by patent practitioners. Several practitioners refused to join the Institute
because they would not adhere to its advertising restrictions. At least two founding
members later resigned for that very reason. The Institute's code of ethics created two
groups of practitioners-members who complied with it, followed a fee schedule and limited
their advertising, and non-members who continued to needle competitors with their aggressive
Harold Fox (president 1938-41) opened negotiations with the law societies and the
Canadian Bar Association aimed at obtaining agreement to the effect that neither patent
practitioners nor lawyers could use the words "counsel" "attorney" or "solicitor" in
association with the word "patent."
In a remarkable parallel with today's qualification issues, the next president,
Alex MacRae, began negotiations with the government on qualifications to practise.
He maintained that lawyers should not be entitled to practise in the Patent Office
or be a member of the Institute without an adequate technical background and training.
Negotiations wrapped up after his mandate, in 1945, and two issues were resolved at the
same time: the term "patent agent" was coined for everyone to use and all applicants
for registration, lawyers included, had to pass an exam set by public service employees
and members of the profession.
Members at a Glance
Not all the founding members were private practitioners. Among them was Lloyd Prittie,
manager of the Patent Department at Canadian General Electric. In 1946, Prittie introduced
colleague Ray Eckersley to his first-the Institute's 20th-Annual Meeting. In those days,
the 40-odd members gathered in a men-only, penguin-suited, formal affair held at Ottawa's
Château Laurier Hotel.
A fresh graduate, Eckersley remembers feeling awed in the presence of the country's most
distinguished practitioners sitting at one long table in heated discussion. The Institute's
80th anniversary coincides with his own 60 years in the profession.
One of the first two women members of the Institute, Joan Clark became the first
woman president (1978-79). In particular, she remembers working hard with vice president
James Kokonis to defeat the fierce opposition from an Assistant Deputy Minister in Consumer
and Corporate Affairs who led a determined effort to undermine the Patent Act and the
entire patent system.
With the Passage of Time...
The Institute's 50th anniversary in 1976 was a grand affair. Guests from sister organizations
all over the world attended the Annual General Meeting in Ottawa. By the time all the speeches
at the Final Banquet were over, half the participants had snuck out of the dining room to watch
a Canada Cup game between the USSR and Canada on television.
Members Robert Mitchell and Gareth Maybee were asked to write a history of the profession and
the Institute for the 50th anniversary. The research proved enormous. Work on and contributors to
the project ebbed and flowed until Mitchell completed the History of the Patent and Trade Mark
Profession in Canada in 1985.
What's In a Name
Originally, the Institute was established under the name of the Canadian Institute of Patent
Solicitors and incorporated in 1935 as the Patent Institute of Canada. After 1948, when new rules
made Canadian residency a requirement to practise before the Patent Office, the Institute and the
profession ballooned. In the early Fifties, Harold Fox was appointed head of a committee to draft
what would become the Trade Marks Act, 1954. The Institute's bylaws were amended at the same time
to admit trade-mark agents and the name changed to the Patent and Trademark Institute of Canada.
Come the close of the 20th century and its massive technological advances, the Institute's name
became exclusionary of those practising in industrial design, copyright and other forms of intellectual
property. The new name of Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, better reflecting the trend of
the day, was adopted at the 1999 Annual Meeting in Quebec City. Only the pronunciation of the acronym
caused some confusion. In his opening remarks, Glen Bloom asked for a show of hands favouring "ipickers"
or "eye-pickers." Not altogether surprisingly, a vast majority of members elected the former.
Thirty years, a new name and another banner birthday later, IPIC is celebrating its 80th anniversary.
President Cynthia Rowden, the Council and the staff invite all the members to toast this remarkable event
with them at the 40th Spring (originally known as the Mid-winter) Meeting in April and the 80th Annual
Meeting in September.
Written by Sylviane Duval
Based on the History of the Patent and Trade Mark Profession in Canada and interviews
with Joan Clark, Ray Eckersley and Robert Mitchell.
© 2013 Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, Ottawa,