Introduction: Fostering a Culture of Innovation in Canada
“A culture of innovation is the foundation of business competitiveness and drives productivity and economic growth.” (Canadian Chamber of Commerce)
In the course of its 2012-13 study of the intellectual property regime, the Standing Committee on Industry of the House of Commons heard many witnesses, including the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO, the agency responsible for the administration and processing of the greater part of IP in Canada), speak about the low awareness among SMEs of the role and importance of IP. Of course, low awareness means that Canadian SMEs may not be protecting their IP as much as they should and as much as their competitors in countries where a culture of innovation may be more prevalent.
An important measure to increase the use of the IP system – a key step in successful innovation – is to ensure that users have confidence in the regime. In this regard the government has taken steps to modernize the Canadian IP system, most recently by adopting legislative changes to prevent inadvertent loss of IP rights and to protect confidential communications between clients and their agents.
Another step needs to be taken to improve the confidence of users in the system: Modernize the regulatory framework for patent and trademark agents.
Entrepreneurs must see that their innovation professionals, the patent and trademark agents they call upon, are regulated like the other professionals they hire (e.g. engineers, accountants, and lawyers). There are currently rigorous qualification exams, administered by CIPO with IPIC’s assistance, for patent and trademark agents. However, other usual elements of a professional regulatory system such as a mandatory code of conduct, continuing education requirements and a proper discipline process are missing. CIPO has recognized the need for reform and worked with members of the profession to identify areas in need of improvement. The conclusions of the working groups were presented in a 2014 report titled Modernizing the IP Community.
In summary, the profession and the government have taken many steps to build the system but simple legislation is lacking to provide the profession with the authority to complete the framework.