Canada is in the midst of negotiating a free trade deal with the EU known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which would cover the free trade of goods and services between Canada and EU member states as well as a harmonized regime for the protection of intellectual property rights (IP). This has the potential of becoming the single biggest boost to Canada’s economy since the ratification of NAFTA. The EU is Canada’s largest trading partner after the US.
The IP provisions of CETA have been the most hotly debated by both sides with each side having to make adjustments to their regulatory regimes to reach harmonization. The largest step forward from Canada, so far, was the re-writing of its copyright law. But there are a number of outstanding issues including the one around pharmaceutical patents.
Canada does not meet the EU standard when it comes to patent term restoration or data exclusivity for pharmaceuticals, and does not have an appeal mechanism when patents are challenged.
There is a lot of scaremongering by interest groups and related commentators who believe that harmonizing our patent provisions with those of the EU will drive up drug costs in Canada. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Patented drug prices will continue to be set by the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board whose mandate it is to set prices no higher than the average of comparator countries and which will not be affected by CETA.
On the other hand, our generic drug prices are already amongst the highest in the world given the oligopoly of suppliers in this country. If anything, CETA may help drive generic prices down.
The real issue is that Canada has been losing basic and applied research funding from industry at an alarming rate recently. Research funding is the lifeblood of Canada’s major universities. Given our proportional size, Canada is far behind where it should and could be in the development of new products and services. If Canada is ever to move beyond being a resource-based economy then it must embrace polices that support investment in quality jobs that begin with research and innovation.
Canadians need to embrace 21st century IP policies if it is to become a 21st century economy.
Dr. D. Wayne Taylor, F.CIM is the Executive Director of the Cameron Institute. Follow the Cameron Institute on twitter atwww.twitter.com/@CameronInst