World IP Day – A Canada/UK Perspective

A guest blog in honour of World Intellectual Property Day by the British High Commission’s Trade and Economic Advisor Mark Agnew:

April 26 marks World Intellectual Property Day, and a chance to recognize the importance of IP in fostering innovation and growth. Although not particularly a dinner table subject of discussion, intellectual property and the impact of government IP policy is all around us: the patent on your cell phone’s technology, the Nike trademark, the copyright on your favourite Hollywood film, or how champagne must be made in France to be called champagne. Not only is IP impacting our everyday lives, but it also worth countless dollars. Long after Canadian Telecoms giant Nortel tumbled from its zenith, their patents were still valuable and a consortium of companies, which included Apple, RIM, and Sony paid around $4.5bn to acquire them last year.

In Canada and the UK, we’re in the midst of fascinating times and a rapidly changing IP landscape.

The Canadian Parliament is currently working on Bill C-11 which would amend the Copyright Act. In the on-going EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations, officials are discussing a wide range of IP-related matters including copyright, geographical indications, and patent protection for pharmaceutical products. The pharmaceutical sector is of particular importance to the UK, since companies like Glaxo-Smith Kline, Astrazeneca, and Shire have significant investments there, and employ thousands.

The UK Government recognizes the importance of a flexible and effective IP policy framework. Last year Professor Ian Hargreaves’ independent review of IP and growth suggested there was a potential to grow the UK economy by up to £7.9bn. After this review was published, the UK Government accepted the ten recommendations and is now introducing a track for small claims at the Patents County Court, launching a feasibility study into a Digital Copyright Exchange, and increasing IP support for SMEs among other things.

Ultimately, intellectual property policy drives innovation through attracting investment from abroad and creates incentives for creators to research, develop, and commercialise their technology. Many products, such as pharmaceuticals, require significant capital to complete the long research phase, with results taking many years to materialise. By fostering an environment that encourages research & development, we push forward technologies that improve our living conditions and, in the case of pharmaceutical products, reduce hospital stays, shorten recovery times and, most importantly, save lives.

The coming year will continue to be busy for us IP watchers. In particular, the EU-Canada trade negotiations are our top commercial priority. More broadly IP will continue to be a key element of the UK’s Prosperity agenda and is vital to the High Commission’s work to promote trade, investment, and further growth for the British economy.

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