The US Chamber of Commerce today released its International IP Index entitled Measuring Momentum. Even though Canada is a high income country, it does not compare well with its sister high income, English-speaking countries, namely, the US, the UK and Australia. In fact we are more comparable to middle income countries like Mexico, Malaysia and Russia when it comes to our national protection of intellectual property (IP). Canadians should be embarrassed and outraged.
Measuring 25 different variables of IP protection, the US scored 24, the UK 22, and Canada 14 – placing us closer to India (which scored 8 and was at the bottom of the 11 leading economies surveyed) than to our natural comparators.
If Canada is ever to embrace the innovation-led, knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, and grow beyond our heritage or “hewers of wood and drawers of water”, then it needs to engage in 21st century protection of intellectual property.
Canada has made some strides in the right direction with its recent amendments to the Copyright Act to manage digital rights but we still lag way behind the rest of the first world when it comes to patent enforcement, patent term extensions for pharmaceutical products, online piracy, and effective border control. Canadian pharmaceutical patent case law is out of step with the rest of the world. Canada is also not a signatory to most of the most recent international treaties aimed at improving IP rights and the protection thereof globally.
And because of all this Canada has lost millions – if not billions in terms of economic and social spin-offs – in private research facilities and clinical trials over the past few years.
Canada punches above its weight in basic, university research as measured by publications and citations, but it lags way behind in patents – the most basic measure of “developing” that research into commercial goods and services to benefit Canadians and people worldwide. Without competitive IP protection there is no incentive for Canadians to innovate at home.
Currently Canada is amongst 11 Pacific Rim countries negotiating a gold standard trade agreement. An essential part of any trade agreement today is harmonized IP regimes. Canada has a long way to go meet the gold standard being proposed.
The path to reaching this gold standard set by others in IP protection is not an arduous one. All it takes is political will. Having helped to influence the World Health Organization and the White House in the past, The Cameron Institute strongly believes that Canada needs to close the IP gap immediately and stands ready to help Canadians make the case to do so.
Dr. D. Wayne Taylor, F.CIM is the Executive Director of the Cameron Institute. Follow the Cameron Institute on twitter at www.twitter.com/@CameronInst