2015 federal budget proposes important changes to IP laws


The federal budget, tabled in the House of Commons on April 21 2015, proposes significant changes to various aspects of Canada’s IP system.

The government proposes to amend the Patent Act, the Trademarks Act and the Industrial Design Act to provide clients with a statutory privilege for confidential communications with their IP agents. Measures of this type have been enacted in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden. The proposed regulations for the Unified Patent Court to be established for the European Union include similar protection. This proposal in the budget is a welcome initiative that would bring Canada’s IP laws into line with international trends to provide legislated protection for client/agent communications in the IP field. 

Historically, there has been limited flexibility in Canada’s IP laws to address force majeure events, and rights could be lost if a deadline were to be missed due to a power outage, flood, ice storm or the like. Significant recent events include the eastern Ontario and western Quebec ice storm of 1998, the 2003 blackout affecting much of north-eastern North America and the Calgary flood of 2013. 

The government proposes amendments to provide the Canadian Intellectual Property Office with the ability to extend key deadlines in cases of force majeure events. The current Patent Act and Trademarks Act permit the minister to declare the office “closed for business”. The budget proposal to allow deadlines to be extended has advantages, as it may permit the office to remain open to receive new filings and grant filing dates, yet still allow those affected by a force majeure event to benefit from a needed extension to meet an office deadline.

Amendments to the Copyright Act are proposed in order to implement and accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, and to extend the term of protection of sound recordings and performances from 50 to 70 years following the first release of the sound recording.

The proposals will not become law until a bill is introduced in Parliament, and it is read, debated and ultimately receives Royal Assent. Enactment of the proposals potentially could occur very quickly, if they are included in the Budget Implementation Act, an omnibus bill that typically promptly follows and implements provisions of the budget.

David Schwartz, Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh, Ottawa

Get unlimited access to all WTR content