Programming prodigy calls for updated IP laws in Canada

A teenaged programming wiz who wrote his first DOS command atthe age of four has joined software companies in calling forsimpler and updated intellectual property laws to protect inventorsand foster research initiatives.

“Wherever I go, I’ve been told to patent my idea, but the patentprocedure is complicated and hard to understand for young inventorslike me,” said Anthony Chiarelli, 16, a high school student fromHamilton, Ont.

Chiarelli spoke at a recently held round table discussion onintellectual property rights sponsored by Microsoft Canada Co. Atthe moment, the ethic is that everything on the Net is fare game.Marek Nitoslawski Head of intellectual property group, FaskenMartineauText

Also present were: Richard Owens executive director of theCentre for Innovation Law and Policy at the University of Torontoand partner with the law firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP; RobHoffman, production manager for Canada of San Rafael, Calif.-basedsoftware firm Autodesk Inc., and Ashif Mawji, president and chiefexecutive officer of contract management software developers UpsideSoftware Inc. in Edmonton.

Chiarelli developed a Microsoft Windows-based software productthat embeds medical information onto the digital image of apatient. The data is encrypted so only doctors or medical personnelwith the required security clearance can view the records. Theteen’s program also allows transmission of the data to personaldigital assistant (PDA) devices.

Chiarelli wrote the software back in 2004, but has not appliedfor a Canadian patent yet because “of the complexity of theprocess.”

Owens supports Chiarelli’s call for simpler and more modern IPlaws. “We need to update legislation and make it reflect therealities of the digital age,” he said. “At the moment anyone canargue that it’s legal to download music in Canada.”

He said the wording of Canadian laws present loopholes thatintellectual pirates can exploit. “It’s easy to protect a tangibleobject such as a coffee cup, but not something that can be copiedin cyberspace.” Owens defined intellectual property rights as abroad entitlement that extends to include information, ideas andother “intangible assets in their expressed form.”

Other experts echoed similar views.

Canadian intellectual property laws “need to take into accountthe realities of the digital environment,” said Marek Nitoslawski,head of the intellectual property practice group at Toronto lawfirm Fasken Martineau. Nitoslawski noted the current copyright lawwas passed in 1920. Unfortunately “it takes long to get lawspassed,” he said. “At the moment the ethic is that everything onthe net is fare game.”

One unfortunate consequence of this situation is that inventorsare often left in the cold, he said. “Inventors have to becompensated for their work. You can’t motivate inventors if theirinventions are not protected.”

Autodesk’s Hoffman, whose firm manufactures AutoCad andMotionBuilder (leading design and animation software productsrespectively) said software piracy is rampant and can havedestructive consequences. “For every package we sell, five arepirated.”

He did not provide any numbers, but said software piracy and acompany’s efforts to stop it eats into valuable funds that could beused for research and development.

Mawji from Upside Software noted that the US has tougher IP lawsand has also made advances in adapting them to the currentenvironment.



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