Canadian Intellectual Property Council launches

The Ottawa-based Canadian Chamber of Commerce has formed a coalition of businesses to raise the profile of intellectual property rights in the government and public, and ultimately encourage innovation and global competitiveness.

Unveiled this week, the Canadian Intellectual Property Council is made up of 14 Canadian businesses from a variety of industries including Microsoft Canada, Cisco Systems Canada, eBay Canada, and Pfizer Canada.

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said Canada needs to create a more welcoming environment for investment in innovation – be it research and development, new product development, and commercialization. “By having better protection of intellectual property, we create an environment where investors are prepared to put in that money in the front end that will generate innovation that we need. Without that, they’ll look elsewhere where the environment is more conducive.”

Beatty wants to see the Trademarks Act stipulate trademark counterfeiting as a specific criminal offence; the Criminal code amended to criminalize intentional possession of counterfeit goods for the purpose of sale; and, severe penalties imposed to deter offenders and allow police to seize income and property derived from copyright piracy.

It’s also necessary, he said, for the government to introduce “long-anticipated copyright legislation and implement the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties that will bring Canada’s Internet rules up to international standards.”

Specifically, he said Canada’s legislation is “well behind” most developed countries when it comes to issues like copying of digital media. He added that the government recently introduced legislation around movie piracy in response to the fact that the country held a poor reputation globally as a haven for movie pirates.

Microsoft Canada’s legal counsel, Chris Tortorice, said being on the Council aligns with the company’s ongoing efforts across three strategic areas – education, engineering, and enforcement – in which it is investing in activities that inform and protect consumers and resellers from counterfeit software and other forms of software piracy.

“By joining this coalition we are saying that we want to ensure intellectual property rights legislation is not only benefiting Canadian companies, but also protecting the safety and security of Canadian’s personal information,” said Tortorice.

Today’s global economy is intensely competitive, said Beatty, and Canada’s manufacturing sector is suffering from labour lost to low-wage countries. “It is through innovation and high-value added intellectual content built into the product that we stand the best chance of being competitive,” he said.

As a first step, the Council and other financial contributors have funded research in the amount of approximately $300,000 towards three projects due for completion this June.

One, a survey on the impact of intellectual property on business value and how Canadian companies regard intellectual property in relation to the business. Another is global research to identify how various countries’ strategies around innovation, science and technology relate to intellectual property, and how Canada fares amid that. And finally, another global research project on key copyright issues in the digital environment and how leading nations are managing those.

But Russell McOrmond, who runs Digital Copyright Canada, said he believes the economy will ultimately benefit if today’s business model is based on knowledge or intellectual property that is cheap and pervasive. “We must harness, not oppose, the fact that knowledge has a zero marginal cost and leverage business models that make use of that benefit,” he said.

McOrmond, who also blogs for IT World Canada, explained that people perceive knowledge as playing one of two roles in today’s economy. Knowledge either plays the role of machines and therefore it should be cheap and pervasive, or knowledge plays the role of products in which case it should be scarce and expensive.

Those who believe it’s a bad thing for knowledge to have a natural marginal cost of zero, he said, want to see “manmade laws to make things more scarce and therefore more expensive” and are essentially “gatekeepers of the old economy”.

“We’re talking about an entirely new way of making money, it’s no longer about physical items but leveraging knowledge to essentially build other aspects of the economy,” said McOrmond.

The number of members on the Council is expected to grow, and to eventually include small-to-medium-sized businesses.

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